Troy Councilman Ethan Baker calls for investigation of council in Kischnick case

A Troy councilman is calling for an investigation of the City Council itself after an outside audit determined a “culture of complicity” allowed former City Manager Brian Kischnick to engage in abusive financial practices against the city.

Councilman Ethan Baker suggested the investigation of all council members at a meeting Monday, July 22.

A majority of the council supported the suggestion; the city administration is to look at organizations that could conduct the investigation.

“Obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job,” Baker said. “That’s on all of us.”

Baker said he has received feedback that indicates the community does not believe the council handled the Kischnick allegations properly.

Baker said the Kischnick situation is creating a “cloud” over the city that is keeping Troy from moving forward.

But the discussion almost immediately pitted Baker against Councilman Dave Henderson; both are candidates for mayor.

“The irony is not lost on me,” Henderson said after Baker suggested the investigation, adding he received a message from Baker shortly before the council meeting that said he would challenge Henderson for the mayor’s seat.

Henderson dismissed Baker’s suggestion of an investigation as “politics.”

“Bring it on,” he said, insisting that no investigating agency will find that he did anything wrong.

Councilman David Hamilton said he didn’t understand how Baker’s suggestion could be politically motivated if every council member will be investigated.

The remarks came after a forensic audit by Plante Moran pointed blame at the council for creating an atmosphere where employees who suspected or witnessed Kischnick’s questionable actions feared retribution if they came forward.

Kischnick is serving time in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to bribery involving a city paving contractor.

An FBI investigation determined Kischnick sought payoffs from the company in return for continued business from the city.

The nearly 30-page report by Plante Moran, whose auditors interviewed numerous city employees, says the employees were disturbed by Kischnick’s “aggressive” behavior and “unethical” practices, but they believed the council was aware of it, and feared for their jobs if they spoke up.

“During interviews, multiple city personnel stated they deemed, (in summary) council’s actions and/or lack of action against Brian Kischnick in response to the problematic findings provided Brian Kischnick a sense of security, in that, he could do whatever he wanted without getting into trouble,” the Plante Moran report said.

An outside law firm was hired to investigate in 2016 after questions were raised about Kischnick allegedly submitting requests for reimbursement for cell phone accessories that seemed unnecessary, requesting a city-issued car while also receiving a car allowance and more.

The law firm concluded that Kischnick’s practices were disturbing. The council received the report but took no action against Kischnick. Several council members said they wanted to give Kischnick a second chance.

The council voted unanimously to fire Kischnick in March 2018 on an unrelated matter; he was arrested for domestic assault on a woman with whom he had a relationship and who was a city employee.

He pleaded no contest to the charge.

The Plante Moran report details restaurant receipts that exceeded the maximum allowed per meal under city policy and other abuses.

The report says the city’s financial services director investigated the questionable receipts by asked Kischnick himself if the charges were reasonable, or told Kischnick that they weren’t acceptable, but approved them anyway.

Current City Manager Mark Miller told the council at a special meeting Wednesday, July 17, that the city is in the process of reviewing and revising several policies in light of the Plante Moran report, including one involving protection for whistleblowers.

This article is from the Oakland Press, published July 23, 2019, link to the original article here.



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