Michigan Governor to Appoint D.C. Lawyer as Detroit Financial Manager

The appointment of Kevyn Orr, an African-American lawyer, is seen as a move to diffuse strong opposition to a financial manager.

Posted: 03/14/2013 11:48 AM EDT

The governor of Michigan is expected to name an African-American D.C. attorney as financial manager of Detroit.

Officials close to Gov. Rick Snyder said he will appoint Kevyn Orr, a partner in the firm Jones Day. Orr has particular experience in the area of business restructuring, financial institution regulation and commercial litigation. 

He has represented Chrysler in dealing with the giant automaker’s bankruptcy. He is a member of the bars of Florida and the District of Columbia, and the American Bankruptcy Institute, where he serves on the institute's law review advisory board. It was widely expected that Snyder would name an African-American financial manager in an attempt to diffuse opposition in Detroit.

Yet the appointment of an emergency financial manager, no matter what race, is widely controversial in Detroit. In fact, many elected officials and civil leaders have opposed the move, which would give to the manager nearly limitless power to manage the city’s finances.

In fact, Detroit's City Council recently voted to challenge the appointment of an emergency manager. Dave Bing, Detroit’s mayor, said last week that he opposes the appointment of an emergency manager and that he will challenge the governor’s move.

"We need to end the drama and infighting and understand that, whether we like it or not, an emergency financial manager is coming to Detroit," Bing said in a statement.

Bing also said that his office intends to work with both state officials and the financial manager "to move our key initiatives forward" and work toward removing "the need for an emergency manager in the required 18 months." He added, "Otherwise, it will be a more elongated and painful process," Bing said.

Snyder’s appointment of a manager has racial and political overtones. The Republican governor essentially has the decision-making power over the elected officials of Detroit, a heavily Democratic city in which African-American residents account for nearly 85 percent of the population. Snyder has appointed emergency financial managers in other Michigan cities with large Black populations, which has been a source of criticism from many in the state.

Detroit has been struggling with its finances for decades. But the problems have only become more ominous in the last few years. The city, whose population has dropped from nearly 2 million 60 years ago to slightly more than 700,000 now, is confronting more than $14 billion in long-term debt and frequent shortfalls.

Orr is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in political science in 1979 and a law degree in 1983.

 

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(Photo: Courtesy of Jones Day Law Firm)

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