The mayor of Hoboken, N.J., says she was told by top officials
in Gov. Chris Christie's administration that she would have to go along
with a private development project the governor wanted in order for her
city to receive Hurricane Sandy relief money.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat who had previously supported Christie, a Republican, made the allegation Saturday on MSNBC.
named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie's community
affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on
behalf of the governor, who has seen his 2016 GOP presidential prospects
threatened by a growing scandal over allegations aides engineered a
traffic tie-up on the George Washington Bridge to settle a score with
the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee.
"The bottom line is, it's not
fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of
Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer," she
said on the program UP w/ Steve Kornacki. "... I know it's very
complicated for the public to really understand all of this, but I have a
legal obligation to follow the law, to bring balanced development to
Spokespeople for Constable and Christie denied the claim, the cable network reported.
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allegation comes as Christie heads to Florida this weekend to woo
Republican donors as well as test his own political resiliency to the
scandal. Christie, the new chairman of the Republican Governors
Association, is to appear at several fundraisers for Florida Gov. Rick
Scott and the RGA, which will defend 20 GOP incumbents this year.
Zimmer said Guadagno pulled her aside during an event in Hoboken in May and made the connection explicit, NJ.com reported.
own recollection recorded in her diary was quoted on the program: "She
pulls me aside and says that I need to move forward with the
Rockefeller project. It's very important to the governor. The word is
that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going
to be able to help you. I know it's not right. These things should not
be connected. But they are, she says. 'If you tell anyone I said it, I
will deny it.'"
The development project involves a 19-block area that is one of the city's last undeveloped properties.
spokesman Michael Drewniak disputed Zimmer's claim: "Mayor Zimmer has
been effusive in her public praise of the Governor's Office and the
assistance we've provided in terms of economic development and Sandy
aid," Drewniak said in a statement to MSNBC. "What or who is driving
her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone's guess."
key Democratic legislator investigating the Fort Lee traffic scandal,
New Jersey Assembly Select Committee on Investigations Chairman John
Wisniewski, said in a statement that Zimmer's allegations "are serious
and yet again raise concern about abuse of government power'.''
Zimmer stood by her charge, offering to take a lie-detector test.
be more than willing to testify under oath and - and answer any
questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test," Zimmer
said. "And, you know, my question back to them is, 'Would all of you?
Would all of you be willing do that same thing, to testify under oath,
to take a lie detector test?'"
At the time, the Christie administration was distributing Hurricane
Sandy recovery funds. Zimmer had requested $100 million for Hoboken,
which was devasted by the storm. The city received $342,000.
Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone said on the same program that
Zimmer's accusations suggest an "abuse of power" by the Christie
administration. "This is something that the U.S. attorney should be
looking at, and has to be further investigated," he said.
said making the accusations was "one of the hardest things I've ever
done," but said it was "not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds
hostage for the city of Hoboken."
"I cannot give a windfall to one property owner because the governor wants me to in exchange for Sandy funds," Zimmer said.