DETROIT (AP) – The man who took Detroit into bankruptcy defended a decision to keep valuable art off the auction block, telling a judge Friday it would greatly harm a city museum and cause turmoil in the community, especially among powerful, wealthy patrons.
Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, answered questions from a judge who is holding a trial to determine if the city’s bankruptcy plan is fair and feasible.
“A one-time sale is detrimental to the long-term benefit of the city,” Orr said. “Selling any art would cause a maelstrom.”
The Detroit Institute of Arts holds many pieces that were acquired by the city. But no art will be sold in a deal that protects the museum and raises hundreds of millions of dollars from the state, foundations and philanthropists, solely for city pensioners whose benefits would be cut in bankruptcy.
Orr has talked about the art controversy many times, but this setting was different. He was in the witness chair in bankruptcy court, answering questions from Judge Steven Rhodes.
Some creditors have objected to the pension bailout and have repeatedly insisted that art should be used in some way to raise more money. Orr said Detroit can’t be forced to sell assets in a bankruptcy.
“It would be very problematic,” he said of any art deals. “I believe sincerely it would harm (the city) irreparably.”
Orr, a bankruptcy lawyer, was hired by Gov. Rick Snyder for an 18-month term in March 2013. He took the city in bankruptcy four months later.
The Detroit City Council last week voted to keep Orr only as captain of the bankruptcy case. Mayor Mike Duggan and the council can run the city without Orr’s blessing.
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