The New Jersey lieutenant governor accused of stiff-arming a mayor by holding hurricane relief funds hostage flatly denied the allegations on Monday as “completely false.”
“In short, Mayor Zimmer’s version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false it is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined,” New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said in a press conference.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki that Guadagno and one other top official in Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration threatened to withhold hurricane relief funding if she did not approve a development project favored by the governor.
Guadagno did not offer any alternate explanations as to what happened during the conversation Zimmer described.
“Standing in Union Beach, as we are today, with some of the mayors whose towns were devastated by Sandy and also being a Sandy victim myself, makes the mayors allegations particularly offensive to me,” Guadagno continued. “The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.”
Guadagno emotionally denied the claims, but did not offer further insight into Zimmer’s claims other than to detail her working relationship with the mayor.
Zimmer sharply rebuked Guadagno’s assertions in a statement following the lieutenant governor’s press conference. ”I am genuinely disappointed that Lieutenant Governor Guadagno has lived up to her promise that she would deny linking Hoboken’s application for Sandy hazard mitigation funding with expediting a private development project,” she said.
Over the weekend, Zimmer met privately with the U.S. attorney in Newark, the very office where Christie made a name for himself as a prosecuter, and said in a statement later that she is willing to testify under oath that she was threatened over relief funding for her town of Hoboken, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“I met with the U.S. attorney for over two hours yesterday, answered all their questions and turned over my journal in which I described my conversation with the Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner Constable,” Zimmer’s statement Monday continued, referencing the second Christie official who allegedly made the threats, Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable. “I stand by my word, remain willing to testify under oath, and I will continue to answer any questions asked of me by the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
Christie, through a spokesman, sharply denied Zimmer’s allegations on Saturday and accused MSNBC of conducting partisan attacks.
Marc Ferzan, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, held a conference call with reporters on Monday to further push back against the perception that Christie’s administration was guilty of political bullying. Ferzan stressed that his department did not specifically target Hoboken in the process of allocating Sandy relief funds.
“There are some suggestions out there that Hoboken has not received grant funding that other communities have,” said Ferzan. “I’m scratching my head a little bit about [charges of] any community that’s getting the short end of the stick, other than to say I understand we’ve got very limited resources.”
Ferzan reiterated an earlier claim from Christie’s office that Hoboken had received $70 million in federal aid, and emphasized that Zimmer’s request for money was just one out of $14 billion worth of requests for projects throughout the entire state.
The Christie administration is already the subject of state and federal inquiries, including one opened by the U.S. attorney’s office, which is broadening its existing inquiry probing possible political retributition after Christie staffers conspired to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge, one of the most trafficked stretches of road in the country.
Guadagno on Monday refused to take reporter’s questions because, she said, of the ongoing inquiry. The lieutenant governor concluded her prepared remarks by saying that she is “very surprised by the Mayor’s allegations and I deny wholeheartedly those allegations. I proudly support and will continue to support the creation of job in Hoboken and New Jersey.”