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Unions question Gov. Snyder under oath about Detroit bankruptcy

Michigan Government
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder, and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Unions representing Detroit city workers and retirees got a chance to question Gov. Rick Snyder under oath Tuesday about the city’s historic bankruptcy filing.

A federal judge is set to begin hearings on whether the governor and Kevyn Orr — the emergency manager he appointed — properly filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Sharon Levine, an attorney for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was one of the people that questioned Snyder during the 3-hour deposition. She says the governor was cooperative — but did not ease concerns that the bankruptcy could threaten retiree pensions.

“We appreciate the fact that he appeared for a deposition,” Levine told reporters outside the governor’s office building after the deposition. “It’s highly unusual. And so, to that extent, we’ve got more information than we had before. But 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 retirees is still of concern.”

Unions claim Snyder and Orr did not negotiate in good faith with stakeholders before the bankruptcy filing. If a federal judge agrees with that claim, he could deny Chapter Nine bankruptcy for Detroit on that basis.

“We did not get from him anything that indicates to us that there actually were more negotiations than we thought there were going into this process,” said Levine. “And we’re still very concerned that there were no proper negotiations going into this process, and that if we had more time and better negotiation, perhaps there could have been a different result.”

The governor’s office released a statement saying the deposition will help to show the city and state are “acting in the best interest of Detroiters and Michiganders.” Snyder says bankruptcy was a “last option.”

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