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Troy City Council probe moves forward

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 23, 2019

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TROY — The firm that conducted a forensic audit of the city will interview current Troy City Council members to determine what knowledge, if any, the council had on the wrongdoings of former City Manager Brian Kischnick.

A divided council voted 4-3 to waive the competitive bid process and retain Plante Moran at an hourly rate of $275 after Mayor Pro Tem Ethan Baker and Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek brought the matter forward at the Oct. 7 meeting.

Baker, Hodorek, Councilwoman Edna Abrahim and Councilman David Hamilton voted yes. Mayor Dane Slater and Councilmen Ed Pennington and Dave Henderson voted no.

The issue arises from a special meeting held July 17, when Plante Moran’s Michele McHale and Eric Conforti presented the findings of a forensic audit that the City Council had requested in December for a charge of $68,000 in a 6-0 vote. 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 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. 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.

The scope of the probe does not include interviewing city employees again. The cost of the investigation is estimated not to exceed $30,000.

“I felt it was important to look at council conduct to see what gave Brian Kischnick the feeling he was invincible,” Baker said. “This sets us on a good path to move forward.”

“I’m not willing to do it not on camera,” said Henderson. “It’s a silly effort, if you’re going to be transparent,” he said, referring to the lack of video.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said that Plante Moran strongly advised against doing interviews on video, stating that it could make people less honest and less forthcoming.

“We need to understand how we got conned,” Abrahim said. “This is bigger than our council. It’s a legacy future councils will deal with.”

Grigg Bluhm said the investigation would not likely be done before the November election.