| DETROIT, April 18
DETROIT, April 18 Applicants ranging from New
York municipal finance expert Richard Ravitch to a local law
professor bid to help Judge Steven Rhodes evaluate Detroit's
financial restructuring plan, but Rhodes ended the recruitment
session on Friday without naming his choice.
Sitting in court without his customary judicial robe, Rhodes
interviewed the four men and one woman, repeatedly reminding
them that the expert's role would be limited to advising on the
feasibility of the city's plans to exit bankruptcy.
"The expert witness will be my expert and is limited to an
examination of the city's plan and the reasonableness of
assumptions that go into it," Rhodes said.
Detroit, with $18 billion of debt and other obligations,
filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in July
2013 and in recent days has reached settlements with several
major creditor groups.
Ravitch, who during the 1970s advised on New York City's
successful effort to avoid bankruptcy, bemoaned Detroit's woeful
financial circumstance. "Detroit's problem is more severe
because the problem wasn't addressed earlier on when it would
have been far less expensive to solve it," he said.
Rhodes warned Ravitch, a former New York lieutenant
governor, that the Detroit job would be far smaller than the
task he carried out during New York city's close brush with
"History demonstrates the outstanding work you did for New
York. This assignment is different in character - it is not to
help the city to solve its problems," Rhodes said.
Ravitch offered to work without pay, though he proposed just
under a $1 million budget for work by his non-profit firm, the
Ravitch Group. The most costly bid, from William Brandt Jr. of
Development Specialists, a Chicago firm, came in at $1.6
Other applicants for the job included Peter Hammer, a law
professor at Wayne State University; Martha Kopacz, of Phoenix
Management Services LLC in Boston; and Dean Kaplan, managing
director of PFM Group of Philadelphia, which has advised on
financial restructuring in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and also
worked with the Detroit Public Schools.
Rhodes' questions varied little from person to person and
touched on topics ranging from their qualifications, to their
understanding of the problems facing Detroit to their views on
the city's plan to deal with its debt.
Hammer, the Wayne State professor, addressed issues such as
the importance of race as Detroit seeks financial recovery. But
Rhodes pointed out Hammer's lack of municipal finance experience
and noted Hammer has publicly criticized the state law under
which Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, was appointed by
Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican.
Brandt expressed optimism about Detroit's restructuring plan
. "I think this plan, if it works, offers Detroit a future,"
Rhodes is expected to make a decision regarding his expert
witness not later than Monday.
(Editing by David Greising and Mohammad Zargham)