Troy officials defend handling of secret report
Troy — City officials on Tuesday defended how they handled a secret city report on allegations of questionable behavior and expenditures by their now former city manager.
The council voted two years ago not to release the internal report done on the alleged misbehavior of Brian Kischnick, according to city officials, to protect the identities of city employees.
But after Kischnick was arrested last month for domestic violence involving a girlfriend in Clawson, the council voted to fire him and then later reversed course on the secret report, allowing it to become public.
The Detroit News, along with other news media, obtained the 518-page report that was issued on July 24, 2016, on Kischnick under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
It explores how Kischnick was the focus of a city hall probe for an unreported accident involving a city car and also questionable expenditures, including a $33,503 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee for personal use; nearly $3,000 in phone accessories he claims he often gave out as gifts but couldn’t remember to whom; thousands of dollars in meal expenses; and more than $1,000 in passes to the city’s fitness and aquatic center he passed out to his family, mother-in-law; a Birmingham woman and her children and the woman’s sister, a Troy employee, and her children.
After a two-month review of concerns, officials said at the time that no criminal matters occurred and no disciplinary action was required of Kischnick, who agreed to reimburse the city for $1,000 in repairs caused to another motorist’s car in the non-injury traffic accident.
Councilman Ethan Baker said Tuesday that he changed his attitude about the city manager after Kischnick’s arrest and “for the good of the city” approved releasing the report.
“Firing him was easy, it took on a life of its own after he was arrested in Clawson because there’s a clause in his contract which says he can be fired if arrested,” said Baker, an attorney on the council since 2015.
“But the more difficult issue was whether or not to release our internal report of previous allegations regarding him. This has been something that has not only divided the council but also our city. I felt to help resolve matters and help heal the city; it would be best to put the report out for everyone to see.
“Transparency was needed to help restore trust in city government.”
Baker defended the original vote not to release the report. He said he felt safeguards, including an action plan instituted by the council, would deter future missteps by Kischnick.
The report also contained interviews with city employees concerned with Kischnick’s spending habits as city manager and his transfer of a city contract for natural gas without council approval. Kischnick argued the move saved taxpayers money but initially cost the city more than $8,000 to break its former contract.
In concluding his July 2016 report and letter to the council, outside attorney Craig Lange, who was asked to review certain issues and performance of Kischnick, said he found the city manager’s behavior “failed to comply with provisions” of the city’s charter, code, purchasing policy, employment agreement and it disregarded state guidelines on municipal spending.
Lange, while insisting deciding Kischnick’s future with Troy was strictly the responsibility of the council, encouraged the body “at a minimum establish strict monitoring of his compliance.”
Mayor Dane Slater said the city report shows extensive efforts were made to review all allegations regarding Kischnick, and then appropriately, allowed “to give him a second chance.”
“This report doesn’t contain anything new — all the topics and issues were addressed by the city in an action plan,” said Slater, who stressed he had voted twice not to release the report “on the advice of our attorneys that it could make it difficult to gain the help of employees in pursuing similar actions in the future if they felt they might be exposed.”
“Some people came in and talked with us and gave statements with the understanding they were under a cloak of an attorney-client relationship to remain secret, and I felt making this (report) public would jeopardize that. That’s all. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
The document was released this month after a rare Sunday meeting, closed-door discussion and a public 4-3 vote — the same margin it had took to keep it secret two years ago. Despite numerous redactions of employees’ names, Slater, Baker and others said it is still possible “to read between the lines” and figure out those who were interviewed because of their involvement in city departments and business.
Last month, Kischnick, 50, was fired from his $161,000 a year job by the council two days after the Clawson incident.
He has declined to be interviewed by The News, but prior to his firing, he wrote a letter to the Troy Council denying any assault took place. He explained he and the 28-year-old woman, who he supervised at city hall, had been out to dinner and drinking and got into an argument on March 9. Witnesses claim they saw Kischnick tackle the woman as she attempted to return to her home and throw her to the ground. Kischnick explained he was only defending himself.
“As the situation escalated, I attempted to calm her down, diffuse the situation, defend myself and prevent harm to her and I," Kischnick wrote the council. "As we continued toward our destination, I was holding her to protect us and get there safely. We fell to the ground at least two times. The fact is I never hit her, abused her, threw her to the ground or harmed her. I was only trying to calm her down and make sure she arrived home safely…”
Kischnick entered a no-contest plea this month to a domestic violence charge over the March 9 incident. Free on bond, he is scheduled to appear back before Clarkston District Judge Kelley Kostin on May 21 for sentencing on the misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and fines.