Kevyn Orr will be stepping down from his role as a consultant to Emergency Manager Kevin Lavin at the end of the month, Gov. Chris Christie's office said Monday.
Kevin Lavin wants to talk about the future, not the past.
"From the start, it was made clear that Kevyn Orr would lend his expertise as a short-term consultant to Kevin Lavin, who continues to lead all efforts to review and improve the operations, finances and culture of Atlantic City's government to bring long-term stability to the resort town," Christie's office said in a statement.
"Kevyn Orr will finalize his work by the end of the month, as the emergency management team continues its efforts to stabilize the city's finances and releases its next assessment report in June.”
Orr will be returning to the law firm of Jones Day on May 1, according to a press release on the firm's website. He will serve as a partner in the firm's Business Restructuring & Reorganization Practice, as well as the “Partner-in-Charge” of its Washington, D.C. office.
David Jacobson, a spokesman for Moody's Investors Service, said Monday the development "has no impact" on Atlantic City's credit rating. In January, Moody's downgraded Atlantic City's rating the day after Lavin and Orr were appointed.
A spokesman for Standard and Poor's, Alex Ortolani, said Monday the ratings agency didn't have a comment regarding Orr.
The fact that Orr presided over Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy led some to speculate that Atlantic City was headed in the same direction. But Neither Orr nor Lavin have suggested that such an outcome is the most likely one for the municipality.
“There's no plan to put the city into bankruptcy," Lavin told The Press in late March.
On Monday, Widener University law professor Juliet M. Moringiello, who studies municipal bankruptcies, said she didn’t think Orr’s departure suggests a shift in the way the city is approaching its financial difficulties.
“The question I would wonder is, does this say anything about Atlantic City's progress toward resolving its debts outside of bankruptcy?” Moringiello said. “It doesn't say anything either way, because you still have Lavin in place."
"Since Kevin Lavin and Kevyn Orr were appointed in January to work with us, both have been very professional and shared their expertise in restructuring debt," said Chris Filiciello, chief of staff to Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, on Monday. "We will continue, as we have since day one, to work with Emergency Manager Kevin Lavin on restructuring Atlantic City's debt."
Filiciello said he did not have any additional information concerning the timing of Orr's departure.
Asked if the change signaled anything new for the city’s management, Filiciello said, "Most of our work had been done through Mr. Lavin, and it will continue to be handled accordingly."
Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney declined to comment on the news Monday. Sweeney had previously been critical of Lavin and Orr’s appointment, saying that it weakened Atlantic City in the eyes of potential creditors.
“I think the process has gone reasonably well,” said State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, referring to the work Lavin and Orr have done. “I think the city and the emergency management have worked cooperatively and collaboratively. The city’s in financial difficulty, and now we’re into the next phase: how do we get out? There’s going to be a lot of pain in this.”
“It’s no secret that Mr. Orr’s assignment was supposed to be short, but the real question is, what solutions have been given by this emergency management team?” said Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic. “We need to move quickly on this time-sensitive crisis.”
Mazzeo described the report Lavin issued in March as consisting of “things that we already knew, and things we had to move on two or three months ago.” He again called for passage of the casino payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, bill awaiting a vote in the legislature.
“I remain confident Mayor Guardian, with continued advice from Mr. Lavin, will reach his goal of right sizing Atlantic City government so it is affordable for middle-class families to live and work here,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic.
“Of course, their efforts would be made easier with the passage of the PILOT bill,” Brown said, adding that he helped negotiate a related revenue-sharing agreement between the county and city that avoided what he says would have been been a $9 million property tax increase for county residents. “So I am, once again, calling on Assemblyman Mazzeo to join me and move his bill.”
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