Breaking News
More () »

Buffalo Common Council member calls for audit of City of Buffalo administrative leave cases

Fillmore District Council Member Mitch Nowakowski proposed a resolution Tuesday in response to reporting from our partners at Investigative Post.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's a new push for accountability in Buffalo City Hall sparked by a recent report that our partners at Investigative Post broke last week.

The report found that the City of Buffalo had been paying an employee on administrative leave for 7 years, without a red flag being raised that entire time.

Until now.

During Tuesday's Common Council Meeting, Fillmore District Council Member Mitch Nowakowski proposed a resolution in response to the story. It asks the City of Buffalo Comptroller to audit all similar cases and report back how many city employees are on extended administrative leave and why.

"I don't know if I should walk around with a Nike shirt that says 'Just Do It' because we need people to start coming to city hall to do their job," said Nowakowski.

Investigative Post found that a clerk in the city's fire department was placed on administrative leave in 2016 after allegedly padding her paycheck. She never had an arbitration hearing, but continued to be paid nearly $600,000 dollars over seven years, while not actually working for the city.

"That egregiousness erodes public trust so it's my duty to bring this resolution forward to ask the city and request the city comptroller to produce an audit," Nowakowski said.

The measure received broad support from council members Bryan Bollman, David Rivera, Rasheed N.C. Wyatt and Council President Darius Pridgen, who each spoke on the matter during Tuesday's council meeting.

"This is one case where it's a no-brainer, where did we fail, where did the system break down," said Rivera (Niagara District).

"We have finite resources, this should not go away, this can pay some city bills," Wyatt said (University District).

On Monday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown confirmed with 2 On Your Side that the employee in question has returned to work, but given it's a personnel matter he said it would be difficult to talk about further.

"Because of the complications of the situation, the pandemic, and a number of other things, there is not much more that I can say. Obviously, we're going to look at the departments involved, look at the procedures," Mayor Brown said.

2 On Your Side has attempted to contact the union, AFSCME Local 650, which represents the employee. The union would have been involved in any arbitration hearing or discussion if that had happened.

The union's office at city hall was locked Tuesday afternoon however, no one answered after knocking, nor after someone walked past the glass door. A note requesting a comment was slid under the door.

In regards to the resolution, Council President Darius Pridgen said the common council would likely have to consult with their attorney to see if the city charter gives them the ability to compel the comptroller or if the council would need to conduct their own investigation.

Comptroller Barabara Miller-Williams told our partners at Investigative Post Tuesday they are looking into the case that sparked this whole discussion.

Before You Leave, Check This Out