Secret report on former Troy city manager released

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 1, 2018

 Brian Kischnick

Brian Kischnick

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TROY — A report that the Troy City Council voted not to reveal to residents two years ago —  which the Troy Times and others recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act after the council reversed that decision this month — answers some questions and raises others about the 2016 internal probe of some of former City Manager Brian Kischnick’s practices.

On April 9, the City Council voted 4-3 to waive attorney-client privilege on the report; Mayor Pro Tem Edna Abrahim and council members Ellen Hodorek, Ethan Baker and David Hamilton voted to waive the attorney-client privilege. Mayor Dane Slater and Councilmen Ed Pennington and Dave Henderson opposed it.

The 518-page report, which former labor attorney Craig Lange had compiled, includes the city’s 2016 media statement and Kischnick’s employment agreement and action plan. Receipts for thousands of dollars of food purchases, transcripts of interviews with a city employee about her hiring process, employee correspondences about an unreported car accident with a city vehicle, the purchase of a $33,053 Jeep Grand Cherokee for Kischnick’s use, receipts for the purchase of phone accessories, and Kischnick’s request for over $1,200 in free passes to the Troy Family Aquatic Center and the Troy Community Center for his family, his mother-in-law, and a Birmingham woman and her family members are compiled in the report. 

The report contains memos regarding questionable moves with a natural gas vendor. The employee memos the Troy Times obtained through FOIA in 2016 include the name of the broker and a notation by Kischnick that the broker was a friend of Slater. The redacted report released has this and the employee names blackened out. Employee titles are not redacted. 

Kischnick sent the purchasing and finance departments an email about the natural gas contract on March 4, 2016, stating, “Pls see below the price quote that one of Dane’s (the mayor) friends sent me.” The memo from Amerifirst Energy names a 12-month fixed rate of $2.79 per million cubic feet of gas. 

However, as Kischnick was notified by an email March 7, the city had already locked in a fixed rate with Constellation Energy at $3.05 per mcf for 12 months. Leaving the current contract, based on the lower rate, would have saved the city $2,243 per year. 

A city staff member sent Kischnick an email March 9 expressing concern that Amerifirst was a broker and not a licensed natural gas provider.

The cost to terminate the contract with Constellation was $8,927, and Kischnick directed city staff to proceed with the new contract without notifying the City Council, a move that later came under question. The city did save over $2,000 from the transaction. 

In August of 2016, when the Troy Times questioned Slater about the matter, he said: “I get approached by businessmen who are looking for ways to help the city,” Slater said. “An Oakland County businessman said he reviewed the city of Troy’s contract and thought he could save the city $10,000. He asked if he could bid on the contract. It’s not unusual for someone to ask to bid on a contract when it expires,” Slater said. “All I did was put him in touch with City Manager Kischnick and had no further contact with him or the process. Sometimes I introduce people and nothing happens.” 

When the Troy Times contacted Slater April 24, he said, “The quote is still accurate. I don’t have anything to add. Nothing has changed. It’s been asked and answered.”

Slater added that he didn’t have anything to do with the redacting. 

In the report, Lange stated that the city charter required Kischnick to bring the proposed contract to the City Council and the city attorney for review and approval. 

Lange also stated that the city manager had violated the city charter by not bringing a $22,350 slide repair at the Troy Family Aquatic Center in spring 2016 to the council for approval. 

In August of 2016, the Troy Times reported that in a May 18 email, a Finance Department employee stated that a requisition to fix a car that had been involved in an accident with an unspecified city vehicle did not include a police or incident report or a claim review. The employee was uncomfortable proceeding and requested direction. 

That employee expressed reservations in a May 17 email about using Pennington Collision to fix the vehicle until the matter was disclosed or approved by the council. 

Pennington Collision, owned and operated by then-Mayor Pro Tem Ed Pennington, is on the list of the city’s eligible vendors. 

Regarding the vehicle accident involving a city-owned vehicle, Kischnick sent an incident report to the Finance Department June 1 stating, “No damage was done to the city car. Clawson PD, claimant and CM (city manager) agreed city would repair damages to the claimant’s car.” 

Kischnick told the Troy Times in 2016 that “it was determined by the parties, including the Clawson police, that it was minimal damage, and therefore that’s why there’s no official police report. It was a just a note in the log. When we all determined there was very minor damage, I decided to handle it the way I did.” He added that he would pay personally for the cost to repair the car, minus the deductible.

“We had that car because (the person whose car was hit) was our customer, and that’s how it came to us,” Pennington told the Troy Times in 2016. “It didn’t come through the city. She was already a customer.” 

He told the Troy Times April 30 that he had nothing to add. 

 

Action plan
In August 2016, the council unanimously agreed to implement an action plan for Kischnick. The plan stipulated that Kischnick would retain his then-current annual salary and benefits of about $159,000 and a $425 monthly car allowance. 

Kischnick was also required to keep food purchases to outside normal working hours and to document them, to review city insurance coverage and policies for reporting incidents, and to draft plans for purchasing steps he must follow. 

In August, the council, in a 6-1 vote, approved a five-year employment agreement for Kischnick that included a 2 percent raise. Kischnick had been earning an annual base salary of $161,267 when he was terminated. 

Abrahim voted against the raise. At that time, she told the Troy Times that she had no comment on her vote, as it was “human resource related.”

“I applied the rigor and standards I use in my professional career (as program manager at General Motors) to the city manager’s performance review,” Abrahim said April 30. “There were areas of concern even after the action plan. As a result of that and terms of the contract, I voted no.”

In August of 2016, Lange spoke to the council during a public forum and told them they had the right to make the report public. They opted not to do so in a 4-3 vote. Abrahim, Hodorek and Councilman Jim Campbell voted in favor of waiving the attorney-client privilege. Slater, Pennington,  Henderson and Baker opposed it.

Lange told the Troy Times that he resigned as labor counsel the day after the council declined to release the report. 

“I knew I would not be able to work with Brian Kischnick again, and I did not care to work with the majority of City Council after their decision not to become transparent about the report.” 

He said he is “not certain the redaction of elected public officials’ names is keeping with FOIA. I believe the public has a right to know names,” referring to elected officials, not city employees. 

Kischnick’s attorney, Anjali Prasad, noted that the City Council extended Kischnick’s contract last summer. 

“Why is the City Council making such a big deal (releasing the report) now? I feel like somebody’s got an ax to grind.” 

Prasad said that Kischnick “has got a lot of support. His prospects are great. He’s a well-qualified guy. He’s done a lot for the city. He did good things because he’s a good manager and a good person.” 

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

He pleaded no contest to domestic violence in the 52-2 District Court April 16. He faces up to 93 days in jail and fines. He will be sentenced May 21.

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