Troy still doing business with firm that bribed fired city manager

Troy still doing business with firm that bribed fired city manager

Questions swirled before and during a Troy City Council meeting just days after the former city manager pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

Despite Brian Kischnick’s confession in front of U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds, it was still unclear after the Aug. 22 hearing whether Kischnick demanded the bribes he took, or whether a major city contractor was the instigator.

The contractor, which is still doing business with the city for millions of dollars of concrete paving, says it was a victim in the bribery scheme.

On Monday, in emails to Troy City Hall and comments voiced at the council meeting, residents wanted to know:

  • What other city officials or employees were at last year’s now infamous Christmas party held at an opulent Troy steakhouse, where Kischnick said he was bribed by executives of DiLisio Contracting?  
  • And will the city keep doing business with DiLisio Contracting? The big Macomb County paving firm has a website with photos of major projects completed for Sterling Heights as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation.

At the City Council meeting, elected leaders begged off answering the public’s inquiries. Instead, they deferred to Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm, who told the audience that city leaders can’t comment on Kischnick’s case, can’t talk about the Christmas party and can’t discuss DiLisio’s status with the city. The reason? They “do not want to interfere or appear to interfere” with an on-going FBI investigation.

City Council member Ellen Hodorek said to one questioner, “I feel frustrated that I can’t defend myself. But the investigation — we want to cooperate” with federal investigators. 

Both Hodorek and Troy Mayor Dane Slater told the Free Press after Monday’s meeting that the city was still doing business with DiLisio 

 But they could not say for how long or whether that would continue.

In a statement last week, Troy’s new city manager, Mark Miller, said the city had begun a forensic audit to “evaluate if Kischnick’s actions resulted in elevated cost to taxpayers.” At the same time, Miller praised DeLisio Contracting and cited its long history of doing good work for the city over the past 10 years through competitive bids.

“DiLisio recently earned a best value award by the city, demonstrating lowest cost to the city,” Miller said. This summer, DiLisio Contracting is scheduled to finish a multi-year, multimillion-dollar paving project in Troy’s Somerset Park Apartments complex under a no-bid contract extension granted in January, when Kischnick was city manager, according to city documents.

Last week, after her client pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit, Kischnick’s attorney Anjali Prasad said her client had been treated unfairly in the media.

“All that Brian pleaded guilty to is that a government snitch offered him $3,000 and he took it,” Prasad said.

“In December, the snitch came to Fogo de Chao in Troy” — a steakhouse whose website says its most popular dinner entree costs $42 — “bought him and many others drinks and meals, and gave him a 1,000 (dollars). And three months later, the individual working for the government gave him $2,000,” Prasad said. She added: “The snitch is DiLisio. DiLisio was working for the government.”

Kischnick’s lawyer said she wasn’t excusing her client’s illegal behavior but merely trying to show that he was influenced by an informant who was “wearing a wire” — that is, a hidden tape recorder.

“This was how the government conducted themselves. Somewhere, DiLisio got in trouble for the government to do this,” said Prasad, a former federal prosecutor. She said if she were a reporter, “I’d want to know, what trouble was DiLisio in for them to do this?” 

She also said that a $3,500 concrete driveway that DiLisio Contracting poured in 2015 for Kischnick’s home, which he told the judge he failed to pay for, did not constitute a bribe.

“The government can’t even connect the driveway to all this other stuff. They did his driveway (and) the bill just didn’t get paid,” she said.

Yet, DiLisio Contracting, based in Clinton Township, has a radically different view of how the bribery occurred. 

“DiLisio Contracting has never participated in any ‘pay to play’ scheme or bribery to receive contracts in the City of Troy or elsewhere,” the company said in a news release.

Far from enticing Kischnick, the company was a victim because “Brian Kischnick attempted to extort money from the company,” said the company’s lawyer John Freeman.

“”As a victim, DiLisio Contracting worked closely with, and followed the direction of, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice” as they gathered evidence against Kischnick, Freeman said.

Kischnick’s lawyer also took issue with Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison. In the plea agreement with Kischnick, Ison contended that Kischnick’s free use of an apartment in Troy for several years, including paid utilities and furniture rental, amounted to additional bribery — a view that, if accepted by the judge, could increase the severity of Kischnick’s sentence.

Kischnick’s lawyer said in the plea agreement that his prison sentence should fall between 27 and 33 months — roughly 2½ years. Ison maintained it should be 46 to 57 months, or about four to five years. He is to be sentenced Dec. 13.

Read more:

Ex-Troy city manager pleads guilty to bribery

Ex-Troy city employee sues for wrongful discharge

Ison mistakenly “inferred that the apartment is now part of this whole thing,” Prasad said, in an interview after the hearing. “Show me some evidence. Nothing is connected. The government is trying to throw in everything but the kitchen sink,” she said.

Kischnick’s plea agreement includes the admission that he “corruptly solicited or demanded, accepted, or agreed to accept something of value from another person” and that he “intended to be influenced or rewarded in connection with some business, transaction or series of transaction of the City of Troy that involved $5,000 or more.” The agreement goes on to state that Troy, during the years that Kischnick took bribes, received annual federal benefits of more than $10,000 — the justification for having the FBI investigate and for prosecuting Kischnick in federal court.

The plea agreement further states that “in total, Kischnick solicited or accepted cash or things of value in the amount of $23,879.50.” That doesn’t include about $43,000 in the free apartment rent, free utilities and free furniture rental, which the prosecutor listed as “relevant conduct.” 

In her portion of the plea agreement, Ison states, “As the City Manager, Kischnick had the authority to modify the date already slated for repair of certain roads located near the apartment complex, and Kischnick, in fact, directed that the date for repair of the roads be moved to an earlier date than originally scheduled after the owners provided the apartment and other amenities to Kischnick free of charge.”