Ex-Troy city manager gets 30 months in prison for bribery

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Brian Kischnick

Troy's former city manager was sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday in federal court for soliciting and accepting more than $20,000 worth of cash and meals from a city contractor. 

During a nearly two-hour hearing in U.S. District Court, Brian Kischnick, 50, locked arms with his attorney, Anjali Prasad, as he stood before Judge Nancy G. Edmunds.

Before the judge handed down her sentence, Kischnick read from a statement, telling the court he's owned up to his crimes.

"My behavior caused harm to the public good, my family and the residents of Troy," he said. "I allowed my morally bankrupt life to let them down. I took an oath and I lost my way. I am deeply remorseful. I was emotionally bankrupt and I chose a dark and unhealthy path."

Edmunds, who presided over former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's racketeering trial and sentenced him to 28 years in prison, spoke at length Thursday about the damage caused by crooked elected officials.

"I've had a number of public corruption cases in the last 10 years," the judge said, eliciting soft chuckles throughout the courtroom. "It so tears at the fabric of what we depend on ... when our government is corrupt, it undermines everything we work for."

Federal prosecutor Dawn Ison had asked the court to sentence Kischnick to 37 months in prison, while Prasad sought probation, although the judge said the crimes were too serious for him to avoid any prison time.

"It does not seem to me that a sentence of probation or a low sentence sends the right message about public corruption," Edmunds said.

Kischnick pleaded guilty in August to bribery, admitting he solicited $15,000 and received $5,879 — $3,000 in cash — and free meals from a city contractor, DiLisio Contracting of Clinton Township. 

Kischnick's case is one of several public corruption scandals that have led to criminal charges against 20 people, mostly in Macomb County. The Macomb corruption scandal has garnered 17 convictions so far, including trash mogul Chuck Rizzo, towing titan Gasper Fiore and former Clinton Township trustee Dean Reynolds.

Kischnick was charged with bribery after he was fired in March from his $161,000-a-year city manager post. The bribery included thousands of dollars spent on personal meals, expensive cellphone accessories he passed out as gifts to workers, and passes that allowed nonresidents and their families to use Troy's recreational facilities.

Kischnick was hired by Troy in 2012 after serving as Tittabawassee Township manager. His contract as Troy’s city manager had been extended in 2017.

The bribery case is the latest legal trouble for Kischnick. In May, he was sentenced in a separate case to 15 months' probation and required to attend a 40-week domestic violence program after he tackled his 28-year-old girlfriend and slammed her face into the ground outside her Clawson address during a March 9 argument.

Kischnick also was the subject of a city hall probe two years ago for wrecking a city-owned car and not reporting it. He had been getting a gas allowance from the city because he said he was driving his personal vehicle.

City officials brought in an outside attorney for that investigation. After a two-month probe, officials said they found no criminal wrongdoing had occurred, although Kischnick agreed to reimburse the city for $1,000 in repairs caused by the traffic accident.

Prior to Thursday's sentencing, Kischnick's attorney and the prosecutor spent more than an hour discussing the defendant. Prasad said her client has turned his life around and is sorry for what he did.

"I think everyone can agree that it was bad judgment on the part of Mr. Kischnick," Prasad said, adding that his alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs clouded his thinking.

"But he rises to the occasion," she said. "The first thing he does (after being arrested) is to stop drinking. The pills ... this stuff messes with your head. Here he is caught in this vortex of addition unknowingly ... (but) he is turning his life around. He is rehabilitated.

"He was not some mastermind in a pay-for-play scheme," Prasad said. "He did a bad thing; he asked for money he shouldn't have, and he took money he shouldn't have. But to say he's the criminal of the century is not accurate."

Ison painted a different picture of the defendant, calling him a "self-centered" person who "minimizes his behavior and never accepts responsibility."

Ison added Kischnick was recorded telling a city contractor from whom he was accepting bribes to "make it rain (money)," adding: "I'll always be on your side no matter what."

"He never intended to serve the citizens of Troy with honor and dignity," Ison said. "Based on Mr. Kischnick's unethical conduct, it comes as no surprise he's in this courtroom. He was bound to end up here. He was corrupt from the start."

After each side made its arguments, the judge said: "It's almost like we're talking about two different people. The defense wants to talk about his rehabilitation and the government wants to focus on when he violated ethical principles.

"The sentencing statute requires that I look at both of those people and to fashion a sentence that takes it all into consideration," Edmunds said.

After handing down her sentence, Edmunds said: "Good luck to you, Mr. Kischnick."

Following Thursday's hearing, Troy City Manager Mark F. Miller said in a written statement: "This sentencing contributes to the deserved closure of this matter for the residents, businesses and employees of Troy. It is critical that there is trust in the government and its employees, which is fostered by integrity and transparency.”   

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