Troy City Council moves forward on ethics probe

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 3, 2019

File photo


TROY — The Troy City Council unanimously authorized the city to move forward on an informal request for services to investigate whether any members of the council played a role in creating a “culture of complicity,” referenced to in a recent forensic audit, that enabled former City Manager Brian Kischnick’s wrongdoing and crimes.

The matter came before the Troy City Council as a council referral item that Mayor Pro Tem Ethan Baker brought forward at the Aug. 19 meeting.

“I want to make sure we’re looking for everything we need to move forward in a positive way,” Baker said. “We still have to overturn every rock to see if there was any wrongdoing from an ethics standpoint.”

At a special meeting called July 17, Michele McHale and Eric Conforti, of Plante Moran, presented the findings of the forensic audit that the City Council had requested in December for a charge of $68,000 in a 6-0 vote. Mayor Dane Slater was absent.

As part of the forensic audit, Plante Moran staff interviewed 16 city employees, mostly department  heads. They looked into petty cash transactions, disbursements and credit cards that Kischnick used.

The forensic audit revealed a management culture, or “tone at the top,” that fostered a sense of entitlement and discouraged city employees from reporting potential violations.

Kischnick was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison and two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to bribery in August 2018.

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.

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

“This is all about the election,” Councilman Ed Pennngton said Aug. 19 of the ethics probe.

Baker and Councilman Dave Henderson are running for mayor in November. Councilwoman Edna Abrahim is running to retain her seat on the council.

“I’m very concerned that staff said they couldn’t speak up,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek. “The evidence points to issues with this council. I’m willing to be scrutinized. I can’t look the other way and move on with a good conscience.”

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm told the council members that they are not going through a formal request for proposals process on the matter. She said the cost will be much less than $10,000 and more than $1,000.

Henderson said he wants interviews of council members for the investigation to be conducted on camera, rather than in written form.

“If we aren’t going to be fully transparent, I want no part of it,” he said.

“I think if the forensic audit report would have come out in February, the notion that this is election-related would be muted quite a bit,” said Abrahim.

“I ask that we stop with all the investigations and accusations and let us get back to work as a city,” resident Steve Tegge said to the council. “I don’t see why we need another investigation. My concern is right now we’re going into an election season. This is very handy this is happening at this time. Let’s stop it and move on as a city.”

Grigg Bluhm said that staff members plan to present the scope of work options to the council at its next meeting Sept. 9.