ATLANTIC CITY _ Arriving in Atlantic City to meet with the mayor Tuesday morning, Jeffrey Chiesa, the former U.S. Senator appointed by Gov. Christie to execute a takeover of Atlantic City, would not say what he is being paid.
"Looking forward to sitting with the mayor today and getting started," Chiesa said as he walked into City Hall's revolving door after fighting traffic on his drive down from North Jersey. "Nothing else right now, thanks."
The state's presence in Atlantic City has itself been a revolving door, with emergency managers named Kevin, Ernst and Young accountants with secret reports and reports in the name of Jon Hanson, another key Christie adviser.
Chiesa, below left, arriving at A.C.'s City Hall, declined to answer a question about what he is being paid. Leland Moore, the spokesman for the state Attorney General's office - which Chiesa once ran, and streamlined - said the state "had apparently not finalized a retention agreement to this point."
In a statement Monday night, Chiesa promised to work "judiciously" and respect the democratic process.
Following the meeting with Guardian, Chiesa met with City Council President Marty Small. Asked about transparency, Chiesa said, "We'll let you know." Chiesa, Small and Guardian all said their meetings were amicable and productive.
Chiesa, though, had few specifics and said to reporters: "It's day 2, so I hope you can bear with me a little bit."
Guardian said he had not heard the state advocate any actions he considered unconstitutional.
Guardian said the city's tentative plan to sell its defunct municipal airstrip, Bader Field, to the city's Municipal Utility Authority for $110 million, to reduce its back-breaking $500 million debt, was "dead."
Guardian said the state was exploring a bond issue to finance for a settlement with Borgata Hotel and Casino, owed more than $150 million stemming from tax appeals. The financing could utilize the same state-underwritten bond issue the city had itself proposed - and the state rejected on its way to a takeover, Guardian said.
Guardian had prepared a list of 17 items to discuss with Chiesa, familiar topics dealing with state aid, a looming Borgata tax settlement, the city's Municipal Utility Authority and other budget and payroll topics.
The city faces a $100 million budget shortfall and has been trying to make a dent in $500 million of debt, mostly due to casino tax appeals as the ratable base and industry cratered.
The two men had met on the street earlier this year in Trenton, he said, near the state's Department of Community Affairs.
He said he believed Chiesa to be a fair person who would not bring a caustic personality to the table.
"We're still occupied Atlantic City," he said. "We didn't like seeing the Panzer divisions roll through the Arc de Triomphe."
Guardian said the time had long passed when he would take the state's actions personally. "There's no insulting me anymore," he said. "That's when the Governor first turned his back on the people."
He added, referring to last week's election, "When you're the mayor of Atlantic City, every day is Tuesday."
He said he was hopeful that the post-Christie landscape, whenever that occurs, will be kinder to Atlantic City. "Just about everyone running for governor thinks this is unconstitutional," he said.
Small, the city council president, said: "This could be short-lived depending on the politics."