LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testified behind closed doors Wednesday about his role taking Detroit into bankruptcy, a rare interview with lawyers for creditors who pressed him about retiree pensions and asked if the city could have done more to avoid the historic filing.
Snyder waived executive privilege and gave a three-hour deposition at his office in Lansing. The testimony can be used as evidence in an upcoming trial that will determine whether Detroit is eligible to shed or restructure at least $18 billion in debt in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Snyder, a Republican, didn’t speak to reporters but issued a statement that repeated many of his previous justifications for the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history.
The “Chapter 9 filing was a difficult but necessary decision, one that clearly was the last and only viable option to resolve the city’s fiscal crisis and restore the greatness of this proud city,” the governor said.
Three months after the filing, no assets have been divided and no major deals have been struck. A judge first must decide whether Detroit has cleared key hurdles that would qualify it for Chapter 9.
“It’s extraordinarily rare” for a governor anywhere to be interviewed under oath about executive decisions, said Devin Schindler, who teaches constitutional law at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
After the deposition, union attorney Sharon Levine complimented Snyder for stepping forward but told reporters that he wasn’t always forthcoming. She said he sometimes couldn’t recall things and at other times refused to answer questions that might reveal advice he got from his own lawyers.
Levine said there doesn’t seem to be a solution for Detroit retirees who could lose pension benefits.
“The fact that we still don’t really fully understand what comes next and if there’s a safety net that’s being thought about for the retirees is still of concern,” Levine said.