|New Jersey taxpayers' tab for the takeover of Atlantic City has reached about $5 million in fees from the law firm former Gov. Chris Christie picked to oversee the gambling resort.
Records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press show the firm of Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi billed the state for $4.8 million going back to the November 2016 takeover of the gambling resort. That's up from reports of $4 million from earlier this year.
The disclosure comes days after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced that government functions overseen by the firm, run by former U.S. senator and Christie ally Jeffrey Chiesa, would revert to the state Department of Community Affairs within 30 days.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who oversees the department, said the price tag was a factor in the decision.
"The cost was of concern to us and was relevant in our decision to bring Atlantic City oversight responsibilities back into DCA," Oliver said in a statement to the AP.
She added that the department is better equipped than an outside law firm to handle the job and that DCA has traditionally overseen financially distressed towns.
Oliver said she did not have an estimate for what the cost to oversee Atlantic City would be for the department, but predicted it would be "significantly less" than what Chiesa billed.
A message left for Chiesa was not returned.
Murphy's announcement said the action would "ensure economic growth and empowerment" for the city and its residents.
Chiesa's work has gotten mixed reviews. Christie, before he left office in January, praised it as a bargain, and Democrats too have given it some positive reviews.
Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, whose district includes Atlantic City, gave Chiesa credit for settling a roughly $160 million bill owed to the Borgata for around $70 million.