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.
She said Snyder seemed satisfied that Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr held good-faith negotiations with creditors before recommending bankruptcy to the governor in July. Creditors aren’t so sure.
“We’re still very concerned that there were no proper negotiations going into this process and that if we had more time and better negotiations perhaps there could be have been a different result,” Levine said.
Last month, the attorney general’s office tried to keep Snyder on the sideline by invoking executive privilege, a common defense. But that didn’t seem to sit well with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, so lawyers for the governor said he would agree to be interviewed.
Snyder has repeatedly said bankruptcy was a last resort for Detroit, which has lost 25 percent of its population since 2000 but continues to bear pension and health care obligations struck in better times. He benched local elected leaders in March when he appointed Orr, a bankruptcy specialist, as emergency manager with sweeping powers.
Schindler doubted that Snyder, a certified public accountant who rarely strays from a cautious style of speaking, would give any fuel to critics who want to derail the bankruptcy case.
“He’s a very talented, savvy fellow who understands how the legal system works,” Schindler said. “I’m sure he’ll be careful, precise and honest in what he says.”
Governors and other high-ranking officials generally are protected from testifying in a legal matter. But there are exceptions, especially when the topic is outside their public role. In 1998, President Bill Clinton was on the hot seat when he gave a deposition in a civil lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, who claimed he had sexually harassed her when he was Arkansas governor.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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