Chris Christie will hire Kevyn Orr as a part-time consultant to assist an emergency manager in restructuring Atlantic City

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and guy who hates David Sirota's good reporting, has decided to take a cue from his buddy, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and appoint an emergency manager to oversee Atlantic City's troubled finances, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Kevyn Orr, the state-appointed emergency manager of Detroit who stepped down last month, will be hired as a part-time consultant, WSJ says. 

And while Atlantic City is raising a number of objections to the decision — just days after the city's mayor told his constituents, "At least we are not Detroit." — one of Snyder's advisers of Michigan's EM law doesn't seem to believe it'll help all that much. From WSJ:

An emergency manager would likely help Atlantic City make important changes immediately, though it couldn’t make up for the closures in casinos that have driven the city’s difficulties, said Eric Scorsone, an economist at Michigan State University who teaches about distressed cities.

“I do think an emergency manager would be interesting and potentially helpful,” said Mr. Scorsone, who provided advice last year to New Jersey officials about how to handle economically troubled cities. “It might be necessary but I’m not sure if it’s sufficient.”

The decision by Christie, who swears he loves the Dallas Cowboys and wants you to understand it was no big deal when he bear-hugged Jerry Jones,  to install an emergency manager in New Jersey is an unprecedented move. And, it appears to be authorized under a thin veil of legality: Unlike Michigan, which has had some form of an EM statute on the books since 1990, New Jersey doesn't have a law in place to appoint an emergency manager with sweeping powers. More from the WSJ:

New Jersey doesn’t have a specific law that allows the state to take over a municipality through an emergency manager. Mr. Christie is expected to make the appointments through local finance laws that allow the state to impose fiscal monitors—as it is doing, in limited fashion, in places such as Newark.

Bill Dressel, director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said he was concerned about the state exerting this degree of control over a city, and questioned what laws the administration was using to justify its involvement. “Obviously I’ve got some concerns,” he said.

Another New Jersey state senator raised concerns about the legality of the decision, telling he wonders where the legal authority comes from.

"I've heard rumors to the same effect that other people have heard," state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) told NJ Advance Media, referring to Orr coming to the city.

He added: "I wonder where the legal authority comes from for it, frankly, number one. Number two, I don't want to speak for the city or the mayor — I haven't been mayor for quite a while — but there's a philosophical question of we have an elected mayor and an elected council and we're just going to throw that out? On what basis? Detroit was in bankruptcy."

Now that sounds like a familiar sentiment. Back in November, a state appointed commission recommended Christie appoint an emergency manager, but said that existing statute would likely have to be augmented by the New Jersey legislature to make it happen. 

The WSJ report suggests Orr's involvement will be deeply intertwined with the corporate finance turnaround magician Christie has appointed as Atlantic City's emergency manager. "The two men will begin work immediately," WSJ quoted a source in Christie's administration as saying, "effectively assuming powers now wielded by the city's elected mayor and City Council." 

But The Detroit News today says Orr has only offered counseling to Christie on how to "handle a state takeover."

"[Orr] met with (Christie) over the holidays to give him some advice, but he's not going to be the emergency manager," Orr's spokesperson told The Detroit News. So: who knows.

The upshot here is that it's evident other states have taken notice of Snyder's move to implement a revamped EM law with additional sweeping powers, and, subsequently, how the EM process has worked under his administration.

Christie is expected to announce the appointments, or in business-friendly jargon "hires," today. 

About The Author

Ryan Felton

Ryan Felton was born in 1990 and spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Livonia. In 2009, after a short stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Detroit where he has remained ever since. After graduating from Wayne State University’s journalism program, he went on to work as a staff writer...
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