Jan 17


PoliticalPost: City auditor quits

Sources say Kevin Kaufman was unhappy with working conditions in the city comptroller's office … plus more news and speculation in local politics and government.

City Auditor Kevin Kaufman talks to the Buffalo’s Common Council in September.

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Buffalo’s chief auditor, Kevin Kaufman, has quit his job in the city comptroller’s office.

Multiple sources say Kaufman, 48, left for a private-sector job, at least in part due to his frustration with working conditions under Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams. He’d been working for the city a little more than 11 years.

Miller-Williams declined to elaborate on his reasons for leaving, referring those questions to Kaufman. She told Investigative Post that Kaufman had done “an excellent job” as head of the Department of Audit and Control. He left “on good terms,” she said, because he had “a growth opportunity.”

Kaufman, a certified public accountant, did not respond to messages left at the phone number for his side gig as a tax preparer.

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In recent months, Miller-Williams deputized Kaufman to field questions from Common Council members about her office’s investigation into the case of Jill Repman, the fire department clerk who was on leave for more than seven years, paid almost $600,000 not to work.

As city auditor, Kaufman was nominally in charge of that investigation. In fact, Miller-Williams told Investigative Post that she’d delegated the investigation to Demone Smith, the former Masten District council member she hired as a special assistant last summer.

City legislators expressed frustration that Miller-Williams would not appear herself in chambers to answer their questions about the Repman situation and other matters. The Fillmore District’s Mitch Nowakowski said in September that he was “disappointed” and “aggravated” by Miller-Williams’s recalcitrance, and by her unwillingness to commit to a full-blown audit of the city’s use of paid leave. He has been skeptical of the comptroller’s commitment to uncovering what happened in the Repman case and has since asked the state comptroller to look into the matter.

“But I do trust the city auditor,” Nowakowski told Investigative Post, referring to Kaufman.

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Miller-Williams released her office’s findings on the Repman case the week after Christmas. The report provided little new information. Kaufman’s name was not on the report, except to say he’d been sent a copy.

Kaufman started working for the city in 2012 under former Comptroller Mark Schroeder, according to city records. His last day was Jan. 5.

Miller-Williams said Sam Bruno, who worked under Kaufman, will assume the duties of city auditor while she searches for a permanent replacement.  The comptroller said she also plans to add another auditor to her staff, but salary and city residency requirements have made hiring difficult.

Patronage watch:

Marc Pope, who served former Common Council President Darius Pridgen as chief of staff, has a new job title in Buffalo City Hall: Director of Infrastructure and Quality of Life, a never-before-filled position in the Department of Public Works.

Buffalo News City Hall reporter Deidre Williams first reported the story in November.

Pope’s new job pays $100,139, which is $20,000 more than he made as Pridgen’s chief of staff. Pope is married to Leah Halton-Pope, who succeeded Pridgen as Ellicott District council member. Pope started the job last month.

Other news:

  • Two Democratic Congressional hopefuls are joining forces: State Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo and former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of Nassau County have created a joint campaign committee, the Kennedy Suozzi Victory Fund
  • Suozzi is running to fill the vacancy left by George Santos, the Republican who was ejected from Congress last month. His likely opponent is Republican Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip. That race figures prominently in Democrats’ hopes to recapture the majority in the House of Representatives.

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  • Kennedy is running to succeed 10-term U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, who is stepping down in February to head Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Kennedy is the prohibitive favorite to win the special election for the heavily Democratic 26th District seat, which will take place in April. The winner will represent the district through the end of the year. Meanwhile, there will be a primary in June and a general election in November for a full, two-year term. Former congressional candidate Nate McMurray told Buffalo News political reporter Charlie Specht he’ll run a primary challenge to Kennedy for the Democratic line in the general election. 
  • Kennedy is throwing a campaign kickoff fundraiser next Thursday at the Statler Hotel in downtown Buffalo. The next federal campaign finance filing deadline is Jan. 31, at which point we’ll learn if Kennedy’s legendary fundraising prowess has manifested in his pursuit of Higgins’s seat. We’ll also learn how much campaign money Higgins carries away from the job with him. Higgins had nearly $1 million on hand as of Sept. 30, 2023. He can return that money to donors, give it to charities, or donate it to political parties and candidates.

What I’m reading:

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul raised $6.3 million in the last six months for her 2026 reelection campaign. It’s an unprecedented haul for a candidate in the middle of her term, Politico reports.
  • Many New York municipalities keep the surplus money generated by tax foreclosure auctions — that is, the profit realized after the back taxes or fees that drove the property into foreclosure have been paid out of the proceeds of the sale. (Buffalo is one of these, as I reported a year ago.) Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice is unconstitutional. New York Focus’s Arabella Saunders reports on how local governments are dealing with the court’s decision.

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  • An unsuccessful candidate for Cheektowaga Town Board, Ken Young, claims the town’s at-large board seats discriminate against the town’s growing population of minority voters. Young thinks he’d have won last year if the town had district seats instead. The town has hired consultants to determine whether the at-large system violates state law, Natalie Brophy reports for The Buffalo News.
  • The four-year fight between Democratic and Republican legislators over redistricting New York’s Congressional seats has cost taxpayers more than $7 million, mostly for lawyers. That’s just for outside counsel and consultants, Politico reports, and the figure will rise.
  • Federal judges have been lenient toward those charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021 takeover of the U.S. Capitol building, according to an analysis by The Intercept, routinely issuing lighter sentences than prosecutors have sought. Judges appointed by Biden have been more forgiving than those appointed by Trump.
Investigative Post

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