Council makes report on former city manager public

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 10, 2018

A divided Troy City Council made a report on former Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick public after listening to residents and after lengthy discussion.

Councilman David Hamilton brought the matter forward as a council referral item at the April 9 meeting.

Council members Edna Abrahim, Ellen Hodorek, Ethan Baker and Hamilton voted to waive the attorney-client privilege on the city labor counsel’s 2016 report. Mayor Dane Slater, and Councilmen Ed Pennington and Dave Henderson opposed it.

A redacted copy of the report will be made available in coming weeks through the Troy City Clerk’s Office under Michigan Freedom of Information Act guidelines. It will contain, per the council’s request, the city’s 2016 media statement, Kischnick’s employment action plan and a newspaper article.

On Aug. 8, 2016, the council, after heated discussion, voted 4-3 against waiving attorney-client privilege, which would have made public a report regarding Kischnick that the council had considered in three closed sessions —  Abrahim made the motion to waive the attorney-client privilege. Prior to that, a media statement Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm released on July 27, 2016, laid out issues involving Kischnick and a car accident with a city vehicle, as well as questionable moves involving a vendor, the purchase of phone accessories and the city manager’s car allowance.

The council placed Kischnick on an employment action plan on Aug. 22, 2016.

Kischnick was required to review the city’s insurance coverage and policies for reporting incidences, and to review the purchasing ordinance in its totality, including the definitions of emergency purchases, authority and reporting.

He was also required to draft a summary of purchasing steps that must be followed; to draft a plan to identify the responsibilities for reporting purchases to the City Council, including emergency purchases, bids and quotes; and to draft a technology purchasing policy and report such purchases to the City Council at a regular City Council meeting.

A dozen residents asked the council to release the report before the April 9 vote.

• “We’re all in this together,” said resident John Mayernick. “We all need to know what’s going on.”

• “Some of you protected Brian Kischnick,” said resident Sue Matthews. “It’s not till you allow transparency will it go away. We’re watching. We will hold you accountable.”

• “Act with integrity and finally release the report,” said Troy resident John Kulesz.

• “The public has a right to know of managerial transgressions,” said former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine. “The truth is always the best defense.”

Hamilton said that “truth plus transparency equals trust. … I ask the council to support this.”

However, Slater said that would go against legal advice.

“The city attorney and current outside labor attorney advised each one of us not to release the attorney-client privileged document,” said Slater. “Release could result in potential lawsuit to the city.”

He added that keeping the report private would protect the rights of the employees who came forward. “They spoke under the pretense their statement was protected; now they are not,” Slater told C & G Newspapers.

Henderson described some material included in the report provided by former city labor attorney Craig Lang as “pontification” and said he was against waiving attorney-client privilege, which “protects the integrity of the whistleblower.”

Abrahim said releasing the report “won’t resolve all trust issues, but would be a significant step forward.”

She added that continuing to keep the report private would be no guarantee against litigation.

Kischnick, when reached by phone April 10, said he had no comment on the council’s decision.

Baker swings the vote

“I voted not to release the report in 2016,” Baker said. “I was about protecting the employees, not about Brian Kischnick. I never felt like there was a toxic work environment or employees were running scared.”

He thanked Maggie Hughes, a former city employee in the city manager’s office, for speaking at the March 19 meeting. She had told the council that Kischnick should have been fired many months ago, describing the culture at City Hall as “toxic” and Kischnick as a “manipulative schoolyard bully.”

“If you value the people that work here and are committed to healing the scars that Brian Kischnick left behind, I urge you to release the report,” she said at the prior meeting.

Baker initially proposed releasing the report without Lang’s opinions, which he later withdrew. He said a vote to release the report was a “right step in the right direction.”

Kischnick was hired as Troy city manager in 2012. He was arrested on an assault charge March 9 and was fired two days later.

Kischnick was arraigned March 10 in 52-4 District Court on one count of assault or assault and battery. His bond was set $5,000, 10 percent cash/surety, and Kischnick was to have no contact with the woman.

Under oath, Kischnick told 52-4 District Court Judge Kelley Kostin March 27 that he had called the reported victim March 19 to see if she was “all right — to see if she remembered what happened.”

Kostin amended Kischnick’s bond to $5,000, no cash surety, which he did not have — and Kischnick was led away in handcuffs.