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Judge interviews experts in Detroit bankruptcy

- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - A former New York lieutenant governor was among the candidates interviewed Friday as a possible expert in the Detroit bankruptcy case.

Judge Steven Rhodes said he wants a set of fresh, experienced eyes to offer opinions as Detroit tries to emerge from bankruptcy this year, and questioned Richard Ravitch and others Friday in court. Rhodes said during the proceedings that he expected to decide later Friday or by Monday, but a court spokesman said in a statement afterward that no timetable for a decision was determined.

Ravitch, 80, has had a long career in public service and has been outspoken about financial risks faced by states and local governments. He told The Associated Press that many promises no longer are affordable.

Ravitch contends Detroit is the most dramatic example of "what happens when you kick the can down the road." He said Detroit's problems are larger than those experienced in New York City, which he helped keep from filing for Chapter 9 in the 1970s.

Ravitch said he would work for free, but his nonprofit company with three other employees has estimated its costs at $965,000, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Another candidate is Peter Hammer, a Wayne State University law professor and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. Rhodes said Hammer has been critical of the state's emergency manager law, which allowed the governor to appoint an emergency manager to run the city. That emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, filed for bankruptcy in July. But the professor said he could remain neutral.

The interviews come during a week in which the city received the support of pension funds and a retirees' group to reduce payouts to thousands of retirees as well as employees who qualify for a future pension.

The bankruptcy case is the largest by a local government in U.S. history.

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