After a month of secrecy, the salary of the New Jersey overseer of Atlantic City, Jeffrey Chiesa, was revealed Thursday. He will bill taxpayers at a rate of $400 per hour, according to a retention agreement with the state Attorney General.
The agreement, dated Nov. 14, calls for partners in Chiesa's law firm to earn $350 per hour for their work. Associates will earn $240 per hour and paralegals can bill $90 per hour.
The law firm is the former law firm of Christie confident David Samson, who pleaded guilty to bribing United Airlines to create a flight especially for him to get to his vacation home in South Carolina.
Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, a critic of the state intervention in Atlantic City, called the salary "unbelievable."
"It's unbelievable to me after three summits, two experts, a host of advisers costing taxpayers over $3 million, the state's answer is to hire somebody without any expertise for $400 an hour," Brown said. He was on his way home from Trenton, where legislators advanced bills giving pay raises to legislative staff and judges.
Chiesa's hourly rate is less than half of what Kevyn Orr, the Detroit bankruptcy czar, billed New Jersey to consult on Atlantic City during an earlier attempt at state control of the financially cratering casino town.
Orr billed $950 per hour, but amassed only a total of $70,000 before leaving the post. His co-emergency manager Kevin Lavin was paid $135,000 for the year he worked.
Chiesa has the authority to hire, fire, eliminate departments and sell assets unilaterally. So far, he has taken only minimal action, including vetoing $3,000 bonuses awarded to board members of the city's water authority.
There was no cap on the billing and the retainer says the state can terminate the contract at any time.
Two resolutions were pulled by the state at Wednesday's City Council meeting, which Chiesa did not attend, because, according to Timothy Cunningham, director of the state's Division of Local Government Services, the state had not had proper time to review them. They concerned regulations for Boardwalk Trams and a redevelopment agreement for the midtown area.
Cunningham attended the evening council meeting, as required by the state takeover law. He said he does not bill by the hour or receive overtime.