ATLANTIC CITY — The state has hired a high-ranking city official to help in its takeover of the city’s finances.
The Department of Community Affairs hired city Business Administrator Jason Holt, who has served in Mayor Don Guardian’s administration since 2014, a department spokeswoman confirmed. He will assist the state in fixing the city’s finances, DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said.
Holt could not be reached for comment.
Holt has worked closely with Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham and his designee, former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, since the state took over major decision-making powers in November, Ryan said in a statement.
“His hire by (the Division of Local Government Services) formalizes the work he has been doing in practice for the last two months,” Ryan said.
The hire is ironic. Holt was often at Guardian’s side in trips to Trenton when city officials were trying to avoid the state takeover. And state officials, pushing for the takeover, argued that city officials were incapable of fixing the city’s finances.
Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, has been critical of the state for not producing its own fiscal recovery plan after rejecting the city’s, all while paying Chiesa $400 an hour. On Wednesday, Brown said the state’s hiring of Holt, who helped produce the city’s plan, shows there is no transparency.
“Without a transparent plan, even if they laid all the state’s experts end to end, they’d still never reach a solution,” Brown said.
Holt will still work out of his City Hall office and his first day with the state will be Jan. 23, Ryan said.
Holt will earn a $140,000 salary, which is what he made as business administrator, Ryan said.
The city will not be hiring another business administrator at this time, a city spokesman said.
The DCA had a job posting for the position to help Chiesa, who is leading the takeover.
Holt previously served as city solicitor before replacing Arch Liston as business administrator in December 2015.
In a statement, Guardian said Holt has been an integral part of his team and wished him luck in his new role.
“When I originally selected him as my solicitor, and then again as my business administrator, I did so because of his extreme intellect and professionalism. Obviously, the state sees the same thing in Mr. Holt,” Guardian said. “I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”
Holt spent 16 years as corporation counsel for East Orange, Essex County. There, he provided legal counsel to both the mayor and City Council, oversaw the complete spectrum of that city’s legal affairs and played a key role in revamping its public-safety initiatives.
Holt graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s of science degree. He obtained his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark.