Detroit, Emergency Managers — July 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Detroit Emergency Manager living well on the taxpayer dime


Frugality is apparently NOT a job requirement

Kevyn Orr scored a pretty sweet deal when he signed on as the Emergency Manager for Detroit. In addition to a car, a driver and a body guard, he’s also got a nice suite in the posh Book Cadillac hotel. This is on top of his $275,000 annual salary.

Orr’s contract (pdf) also stipulates some other nice stuff:

The actual and necessary expenses of the Emergency Manager, including customary expenses related to travel, meals, and lodging which are incurred in connection with service to the City will be reimbursed by the City. […]

The Emergency Manager will be entitled to receive security protection in connection with the Emergency Manager’s duties under this Contract… Payment of compensation for security personnel will be the obligation of the City.

Turns out some of those expenses “related to travel, meals, and lodging” include some tasty room service meals:

Orr filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, saying pensions must be cut. Some Detroiters say it would be easier to stomach if Orr walked the walk.

Many say Orr is living large in a Westin Book Cadillac hotel penthouse suite paid for by taxpayers while he has had plenty of time to find his own place and pay for it with his own salary of $275,000.

Orr also has hired an assistant, Gary Brown, and Police Chief James Craig, both at $225,000 a year.

The emergency manager also is ringing up a nice room service bill — almost $3,000 for crab cakes and steak bites, calamari and shrimp Caesar. He has been eating well while deciding who will lose their job and who will lose their pension.

“It shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be that way. He got a job to do and he’s doing it, but that’s a lot of money,” said Steve, a Detroit resident.

Democratic candidate for governor Mark Schauer called on Orr to “reimburse the taxpayers for his wasteful hotel spending” and released this statement on the revelations:

Gov. Snyder should require Mr. Orr to publicly disclose his expenses and personally reimburse taxpayers for his wasteful spending. Michigan taxpayers deserve a full and accurate accounting of Mr. Orr’s lodging and room service charges, which exceed the average monthly pension for most retired police officers and firefighters. Instead of forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for his lavish lifestyle while pushing deep pension cuts, Mr. Orr should lead by example by paying for his own personal expenses, and seek more affordable housing accommodations in Detroit.

The average monthly pension that Schauer mentions is $1,583.33 for most retirees and $2,541.17 for police officers and fire fighters.

I get that Kevyn Orr’s job is hard. That’s why he gets paid over a quarter million dollars a year with full benefits including full health insurance, general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and motor vehicle insurance. He also gets to hire staff which he has done and is immune from any lawsuits arising from him executing his duties as the Emergency Manager.

But his $275,000 salary is after his meals are paid for and all of his lodging and travel expenses are reimbursed. That, on top of the high salaries being paid to his staff and the monstrous fees being paid to his former employer Jones Day — $1.4 million just the first six weeks they’ve been on the job — are pretty hard to square with the call for frugality and fiscal responsibility that’s being sent out from all quarters. For all the criticisms of the profligacy of previous city leaders — justified in many cases — this doesn’t look much different.

Perception means a lot, Mr. Orr. You really need to evaluate how you’re coming across to those of us outside your bubble.

Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.