At a Thursday press conference, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recommended Washington-based bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr to become the Emergency Manager of Detroit. The state’s Emergency Loan Board, which includes Snyder appointees, is expected to formally appoint Orr later this week.
Speaking at a press conference with Snyder and Detroit Mayor David Bing, Orr said that he “felt compelled to do this job” and wanted a “true partnership” with the city government.
“The mayor described his willingness to be part of the solution, and I hope, as well, the City Council,” he said.
Emergency Managers (EMs) are already in place in several cities and school districts across the state, and have sweeping power to overrule decisions made by the mayor and the city council. The conciliatory tone set by Snyder, Bing and Orr at the press conference may have been a reaction to critics of the state’s EM system, who argue that Emergency Managers have used their power to steamroll local governments. Protests against an Emergency Manager appointment clogged up traffic on the local interstate.
“The bottom line here is that we must stop fighting each other,” said Bing. “We must start to work together, and so I’m happy that now I’ve got teammates, I’ve got partners that can help me do some of the things that need to be done in our city.”
Orr was previously a partner at the Washington law firm Jones Day, though he said at the press conference that he had resigned that post, effective on Wednesday. At Jones Day, Orr represented the Michigan-based automotive company Chrysler during its bankruptcy and restructuring. His firm has also represented major banks, such as Bank of America, which hold significant amounts of the city’s debt and may have contributed to the city’s current insolvency.
However, Orr said there would be no conflict of interest if he was appointed EM, pointing to his resignation and saying that “we were able to do that work precisely because we were able to put in place appropriate firewalls.”