TRENTON, N.J. – A former U.S. senator will now oversee New Jersey’s takeover of Atlantic City.
The Department of Community Affairs announced the appointment of Jeffrey Chiesa on Monday night. The department did not say how much Chiesa will be paid.
The 51-year-old Republican served as Gov. Chris Christie’s chief counsel and then as the state’s attorney general before the GOP governor chose him to serve out the U.S. Senate term of the late Frank Lautenberg. He decided not to seek a full term.
Chiesa’s appointment comes nearly a week after the state took control of the assets and major decision-making in the struggling seaside gambling resort that is half a billion dollars in debt.
The New Jersey Local Finance Board voted last Wednesday to take over the city’s main governmental functions after the state rejected a proposed five-year financial turnaround plan. The plan by Atlantic City called for layoffs, spending cuts and the sale of Bader Field to the city’s water utility, keeping both prized assets in public hands.
The state said the plan did not do enough to quickly repair the city’s finances.
Under the takeover, the state can cancel decisions by the City Council, hire or fire workers, break union contracts and sell off city assets, including Bader Field and the city’s water works.
The city’s financial strife is largely due to the decline of gambling. Atlantic City has seen five of its 12 casinos close since 2014, taxes have more than doubled over the last six years and the city’s base of taxable property has declined by two-thirds in recent years.