Troy resident sues for records after city manager scrutiny
Troy – Frustrated at being stonewalled on getting records on the activities of Troy’s city manager, a city resident has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the city.
Ann Erickson Gault wants disclosure of public documents she requested regarding City Manager Brian Kischnick. The lawsuit, which was assigned to Oakland Circuit Judge Nanci Grant, not only seeks the requested documents about his city-owned vehicle and other matters but also the awarding of to-be-determined damages, including attorney fees, for allegedly violating the state’s open records law.
The News reported in July how Troy officials said questionable practices by Kischnick – including an unreported accident with a city vehicle – had been quietly scrutinized for over two months. After receiving a report, the City Council said in July that all matters had been resolved, including Kischnick’s agreement to reimburse the city for $1,000 to cover an insurance deductible for repairs caused by an unreported traffic accident involving a city-owned Jeep he was driving.
“I have never filed anything like this before,” said Gault, an attorney. “I am not trying to harm the city. I am not trying to make money off the city and have no political aspirations.
“I just think this is something which demands transparency and meets the public’s need to know about its top non-elected city official.”
Kischnick declined to discuss specifics of the lawsuit, referring questions to the city law department.
“I thought all of this was handled last year,” said Kischnick, who became the city’s $158,105-a-year city manager in November 2012. “We need to move on as a city ...”
City attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said she was just served with the complaint and had not read it in its entirety.
“We feel we acted appropriately to requests and did provide information,” she said. “I will be reviewing this and expect to go before the City Council at its next regular meeting (Jan. 23) where I also expect they will advise me to aggressively defend the city.”
Gault’s attorney, Karie H. Boylan, said the city has failed to specify or explain why certain portions of the freedom of information request were denied.
“She (Gault) received a dump of about 500 pages – some related to her request, but not in any particular order, so it is difficult to determine what some of the material may even relate to,” Boylan said. “They also cite statues of the FOIA for denying material but without explanation about what are the applicable exemptions so we have an opportunity to respond.”
Boylan said one item requested involves a matter that “is under or part of a criminal investigation.” In July, Bluhm stressed that a two-month review by an outside labor attorney found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or violations that might warrant internal disciplinary action concerning Kischnick’s activities. A report of that investigation has remained confidential.
Gault’s lawsuit says in September she submitted requests for “whistle-blower” complaints and the investigation that followed and other rumored violations of city policy. including statements that Kischnick had hired a woman “rumored to be his mistress” as the city’s customer service coordinator without knowledge of the City Council “or any other city official.”
“I did hire someone but based on their credentials,” said Kischnick, who dismissed whether the unnamed worker was his mistress.
Gault also wants documents regarding Kischnick’s cellphone usage and his alleged authorization for an “unfunded, unbudgeted City purchase of a Jeep Grand Cherokee for him to drive (at the same time he was receiving a car allowance).”
Gault also requested city officials’ property disclosure statements and their “calendars including meetings held with City developers, suppliers, etc.”
Gault said she was provided “some copies of some public records” related to her request “but not all.”