Troy names Mark Miller as city manager

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 23, 2018

 The Troy City Council has voted to name Mark Miller the city's new manager.

The Troy City Council has voted to name Mark Miller the city's new manager.

Photo provided by the city of Troy

Amid a call for an apology and charges of political flip-flopping — and after interviewing three finalist candidates for Troy’s top spot — the Troy City Council appointed Mark Miller as city manager at the Nov. 19 City Council meeting in a 6-1 vote.

Councilman Dave Henderson opposed it.

Henderson cited “politically charged flip-flops on City Council,” referring to Councilman Ethan Baker’s vote Oct. 27 for the final three candidates — which did not include Miller — for his opposition.

Miller’s appointment is contingent on agreement on his contract.

Miller did not make the list of the final three candidates — Victor Cardenas, Chris D. Wilson and Rex Saukkonen did.

Cardenas currently serves as the assistant city manager of Novi. Wilson serves as the village manager of Beverly Hills. Saukkonen has a background in the armed forces in command and is employed by a defense contractor overseas.

After consulting with GovHR USA, the search firm retained by the city for $22,000, in closed session Oct. 8, the City Council winnowed the field down to six candidates, one of them being acting City Manager Mark Miller.

The council interviewed the six finalists Oct. 27,  Saukkonen via Skype. The city funded his travel expenses, estimated at about $2,000, for his final interview.  

The council had appointed Miller to serve as interim city manager immediately following former City Manager Brian Kischnick’s termination March 11.

Council members each voted for three candidates following the interviews Oct. 27.

Mayor Dane Slater and Councilmen Ed Pennington, Dave Henderson and Baker selected Cardenas, Wilson and Saukkonen. Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek, Mayor Pro Tem Edna Abrahim and Councilman David Hamilton selected Cardenas, Miller and Wilson as their finalists.

The three finalists participated in engagement sessions with the city employees and the public Nov. 15, before the council conducted hour-long interviews with each of the three. Miller was not interviewed a second time at that meeting.

The council received over 40 comment cards from city employees in support of Miller as city manager.

Deliberations began Nov. 19 with a motion by Henderson to deliberate on the three named finalist candidates, which passed in a 4-3 vote. Baker, Hamilton and Hodorek opposed it. Abrahim said she voted yes to get the discussion on the table, with the option to amend the motion to include Miller.

A motion to include Miller in the deliberations passed in a 6-1 vote. Henderson opposed it.

“We’ve spent a considerable amount of money,” Henderson said, adding that out of the number of applicants — 84 — the council had selected three.

He said that he was the only councilperson who did not support Kischnick when he went through the interview process, but he felt compelled to change his vote in favor of Kischnick so that a majority of council supported the hiring of the new city manager.

“We’ve hired from the outside before. It hasn’t worked well,” Hodorek said. “I’m fully confident in him (Miller). I’m very impressed with the three candidates, but none of them had what stood above (Miller).”

Pennington said he was surprised by “the last-minute flip-flop” of Baker.

“When it came down to it, I couldn’t find a reason to appoint one of those three over Mark Miller,” Baker said. “Troy is a place where we do need some stability. I’m very confident he can take us to the next level.”

“We’ve already lost so much time,” Abrahim said. “He’s had an eight-month job interview. He stepped up and exceeded all expectations. He brought staff together for a healing process.”

Slater said that while he felt that not picking one of the three finalists “did a disservice to the process,” he would support whatever “this body decides,” and he asked all those on the council to vote with the majority.

On April 9, the council unanimously approved a temporary salary adjustment to $162,000 for Miller. Kischnick had been earning an annual base salary of $161,267 when he was terminated.

Miller had been earning an annual base salary of $127,749 as the economic and community development director.

“Because I wasn’t a finalist, City Council’s decision to appoint me as city manager came as a surprise,” Miller said via email. “Nevertheless, City Council, residents, businesses and our employees can be assured that I will use all of my leadership and management skills to continue the high standards that Troy maintains.  Furthermore, we will help guide Troy with continual improvements into the future.”

The City Council fired Kischnick after about an hour and a half in closed session with a labor attorney in a special meeting Sunday, March 11.

The council unanimously terminated Kischnick with cause, which means he gets no severance. He was hired in 2012.

The decision came two days after police reported that Kischnick had spent the night in jail in the city he was hired to manage after he was arrested following what police said was a domestic assault incident at a home on Chocolay Avenue in Clawson at about 10:30 p.m. March 9.

He pleaded no contest to domestic violence in 52-2 District Court April 16 and was sentenced to 15 months probation and 30 days jail time held in abeyance.

Kischnick later pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from a pavement contractor, a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. District Court Judge Nanci Edmunds accepted Kischnick’s plea Aug. 22.

In July 2016, Kischnick came under scrutiny for issues involving 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.

Kischnick will be sentenced at 10 a.m. Dec. 13. His bond was set at $10,000, and he was required to surrender his passport.