Detroit manager defends actions before bankruptcy

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Attorneys lined up to question him Tuesday and to highlight their key claim for Judge Steven Rhodes: Bankruptcy was a done deal, and Orr really had no interest in negotiating. They showed video clips of him speaking publicly about his sweeping powers as a state-appointed manager and the possible consequences of taking the city into Chapter 9 if finances didn’t improve.

“We were trying very hard” to get agreements, Orr insisted during his testimony.

He said that’s still the case, even if Detroit is found to be eligible for bankruptcy. The alternative, Orr added, could be big losses for creditors — a “cram-down” — if the judge eventually approves a plan for the city to emerge from Chapter 9.

Orr, a bankruptcy lawyer by training, took his lumps from opposing counsel and also took a few licks from the judge.

He said he couldn’t recall specifically asking Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for a state bailout for Detroit pensions. He said it was clear there would be no buckets of cash for any purpose.

Snyder and key lawmakers have said they would not rescue Detroit with a bailout.

Rhodes repeatedly became frustrated with Orr’s responses to questions. Instead of replying yes or no, Orr often wanted to elaborate or couldn’t recall.

“You don’t remember asking the governor to write a check for $3.5 billion?” Rhodes said.

Orr said, “I don’t recall asking it in that context.”

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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