News

Pension Committee Subpoenas Detroit Museum for Documents

by Mostafa Heddaya on April 2, 2014

The Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by Flickr user karmacamilleeon)

A committee representing Detroit’s 20,000 municipal retirees is demanding a more thorough review of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) collection, arguing that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s revised bankruptcy plan is less favorable than the original, MLive.com reported. The revised Orr plan, a 602-page document filed on Monday, incorporates the multiparty deal that uses a mix of state and foundation funds to save DIA artworks purchased with city money from potentially adverse alternatives.

Of the city’s $18 billion of debt, an estimated $9.2 billion affects retiree pensions and health benefits. According to the plan filed Monday, the $816 million of the multiparty DIA fund — which constitutes money pledged on behalf of the museum, but going towards the pensions — would still be followed by a 6% cut to Police and Fire Retirement System pensions, while General Retirement Systems pensioners would lose 26%. In response to these proposed cuts, the committee representing Detroit pensioners filed a subpoena yesterday asking the DIA to release far more information than was made originally available in the Christie’s report published in December 2013. According to MLive.com, the subpoena requests 35 categories of documents, some dating back to 1919.

Though the Christie’s report appraised the city-owned art at $454–867 million, the retiree committee believes that the artwork could be worth significantly more. “In light of the city’s actions, it would be foolish for the committee to stand on the sidelines and not assess the value of the art,” committee member Michael Karwoski told the Detroit News. At a March 24 talk at the University of Michigan, Emergency Manager Orr reportedly said that he had fielded “many sovereign wealthy, Russian oligarchs, Brazilian millionaires who are calling and inquiring” after the DIA artwork. Orr’s office later claimed he was speaking metaphorically.

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