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Troy City Council cements cement contract

Financial audit still pending

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 12, 2019

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TROY — With the road construction season underway and without any evidence that a cement contractor was part of any wrongdoing, the Troy City Council awarded DiLisio Contracting a hefty contract while still waiting for the results of a forensic audit.

The council voted 6-0 to approve the one-year, $2.4 million contract for concrete slab replacement at its June 3 meeting, after postponing the matter April 22.

City Councilman Ed Pennington was absent.

City Councilman David Hamilton asked that the item be removed from the consent agenda for discussion at the April 22 meeting, noting that DiLisio was named in the federal court sentencing documents for former City Manager Brian Kischnick.

Kischnick was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison and two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to bribery in August.

A Jan. 18 sentencing memorandum by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison states that Kischnick used his city office to solicit bribes and other things of value. This included demanding bribes from DiLisio Contracting. Kischnick was ordered to pay $4,500 in restitution.

After Kischnick directed Troy Department of Public Works Director Kurt Bovensiep to contact DiLisio in September of 2015 and coordinate the construction of a new driveway at Kischnick’s home,  DiLisio sent Kischnick a $3,500 invoice for costs and labor only for the driveway, including tree removal by the city arborist, which he never paid, according to the sentencing memorandum.

According to the memorandum, DiLisio, acting under the direction of the FBI, arranged a Christmas lunch at a Troy restaurant in December 2017 with city employees invited by Kischnick. DiLisio paid the $1,287 tab and gave Kischnick $1,000 in exchange for his support of the renewal of the city’s contract for concrete slab replacement services. On Jan. 22, 2018, based on Kischnick’s recommendation, the Troy City Council awarded DiLisio a one-year contract to provide concrete slab replacement services, with an option to renew for one additional year.

On March 6, 2018, under the direction of the FBI, DiLisio offered and Kischnick accepted a $2,000 bribe, according to the sentencing memorandum.

The City Council terminated Kischnick’s employment March 11, 2018, following a March 9 domestic assault charge in Clawson, to which he pleaded no contest.

 

DiLisio weighs in
DiLisio Contracting attorney John Freeman, in a Jan. 21 prepared statement, said that DiLisio Contracting “became a victim of Kischnick’s exploitation of (his) position for his own personal gain. During the course of the FBI’s investigation into Kischnick’s corruption, DiLisio Contracting cooperated with the government, which included giving things of value to Kischnick, at the direction and with the approval of the FBI and Department of Justice.”

“DiLisio Contracting welcomes the opportunity to continue serving the people of Troy now and into the future,” Freeman said via email June 4.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm told the council that the city had the opportunity to get out of the contract, if the council deemed it was necessary.

Bovensiep told the council that waiting any further would begin to jeopardize getting work done.

Grigg Bluhm told C & G Newspapers via email that Plante Moran, the independent CPA firm conducting the forensic audit at the city’s request, had not completed it.

Councilwoman Edna Abrahim said that while she would appreciate more information from Plante Moran, she believes the sentencing memorandum does not indicate that DiLisio was a key witness to wrongdoing. She noted that in information provided to the council as part of the agenda, Plante Moran staff said that they did not have any cause for concern with DiLisio, the audit had not identified any transactions involving DiLisio, and no new information had been uncovered as the result of Plante Moran’s interview process.

“I think DiLisio has done great work. I’m grateful to the contractor for sounding the alarm when they did,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ethan Baker. “I feel no need to shoot the messenger.”

“It’s very obvious that DiLisio went to law enforcement when they were approached,” said Mayor Dane Slater. “They helped put him (Kischnick) there. I have not heard anything worth penalizing DiLisio for what Kischnick did.”

Hamilton noted that while there are still a lot of unanswered questions raised by the sentencing memo, “You can’t put that on DiLisio. … They went to the FBI and helped put Kischnick behind bars. For that I can support the contract for the next year.”

During the council comments portion of the meeting, Hamilton referenced the April 22 meeting, when he had asked each City Council member to state on the record if they had had any interactions with DiLisio Contracting; had attended the Dec. 21, 2017, holiday party noted in court documents; or had known about the replacement of Kischnick’s driveway by DiLisio.

 

Council answers back
“It’s up to each individual council member whether or not they want to speak to that,” Slater said of Hamilton’s request at the April 22 meeting.

Abrahim said that she had never met with DiLisio outside of council chambers, was not at the Christmas party and had not been invited to it.

“I have never met them (DiLisio),” said Baker April 22. “I wasn’t at a Christmas party.” He added that he had not been invited to the Christmas party.

“I‘ve never been invited to a Christmas party,” said Councilman Dave Henderson, adding that he ran into a DiLisio family member in a cigar lounge and discussed DiLisio’s brother’s military service in Iraq. “I have nothing to add to the story that wasn’t said at the meeting,” Henderson said via email in April in response to the C & G’s question of whether he had attended the Christmas party.

Slater said he knew nothing about a Christmas party, except for what had been brought forth in Kischnick’s indictment. Slater said he believes the statements referenced in the sentencing report were stated by Kischnick’s attorney, and he questioned their validity.

“I wasn’t there,” Slater said about the Christmas party. “I don’t know anything about it.”

“I never had a conversation with a DiLisio,” said Pennington, adding he had not been invited to the Christmas party. “I didn’t know anything about it until the indictment.”

Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek said she had no relationship with or interactions with DiLisio Contracting. “I did not get invited to a party in December with DiLisio’s — I wasn’t there,” she said. “I never participated in a social event of any kind with them.”

Slater, Henderson, Baker, Pennington, Abrahim and Hodorek all indicated from the council table that they had not known about the replacement of Kischnick’s driveway.

At the June 3 meeting, Hamilton said there were still a lot of unanswered questions, making him wonder at the “accuracy of the answers.”

“Today we hear the mayor’s driveway was done at the same time … as DiLisio repaired the road,” he added, referencing resident John Kulesz’s comments during public comment. He gave the city clerk a packet that he said contained Google Earth images of Slater’s driveway in April 2016 and in April 2017 — the same time the slab replacement program went through his subdivision, which Kulesz said “clearly shows Mr. Slater had his driveway replaced.”

Kulesz said he requested any building permits issued to Slater under the Freedom of Information Act and received copies of other home construction permits, but not a driveway permit.

 

Resident raises questions
Kulesz said he had no concerns about DiLisio, but he did have concerns about Slater allegedly having his driveway replaced at the same time that DiLisio was performing work nearby, and Kulesz noted that he was unable to find a permit issued by the city for the reported driveway work.

“We need to know who replaced his driveway and how much he paid for it,” Kulesz said.

When asked if he would comment on a building permit or work on his driveway, Slater told C & G he would not discuss it.

“He’s a disgruntled and angry resident — someone I don’t respond to,” Slater said of Kulesz. “I’ve never done anything illegal or unethical. Being accused is very discouraging.”

Hamilton said he is considering opening an investigation, which a council member may do, by city charter.

“The council has a right to investigate misconduct,” Hamilton said. “I’m disturbed by the allegations. But at the same time, they are just allegations. I want to know the truth.”

“There was nobody else associated with him (Kischnick) who did anything immoral, unethical or illegal,” Henderson said. He noted that the FBI interviewed him for an hour and a half “being grilled. … I am not in prison. … They believed me.”

He added that it’s an election year and said there are “a few people out there that would love to see me and my career on Brian Kischnick’s grave, and I’m not going to let that happen,” he said.  “My reputation is stellar. I’ve done a great job for the city of Troy. I despise people who throw barbs and try to trash my reputation over the reputation of a guy who is spending 30 months in prison.”

“I know this is very emotional. I’ve never done anything illegal. I’ve never done anything wrong. I don’t answer to you,” Slater said, looking across the council table at Hamilton. “I answer to my family.”

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