We talked earlier about Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D), who told MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki over the weekend that two top officials in Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) administration told her to advance a local development deal, and in exchange, her city would receive more post-Sandy relief funding. The governor’s office is challenging the mayor’s story this afternoon with an easy-to-check claim.
At issue is an event in May of last year, when a group of officials gathered for a public television special on Sandy recovery. Zimmer sat alongside Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, and according to the mayor, Constable told her if she moved forward with a specific development deal, “they money would start flowing” to Hoboken.
Today, Christie’s office disseminated a piece from the Asbury Park Press, quoting Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty (D), who was part of the same panel.
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, who also was a panelist, said he didn’t hear a conversation between Zimmer and Constable.“I sat next to Mayor Zimmer and, if I recall correctly, (Constable) was on my other side,” Doherty said.
If true, that would be a pretty important detail – Zimmer’s version of events makes clear that she was sitting next to the Christie administration official. But is Doherty’s memory accurate?
It is not. As is clear in the above photo, Doherty’s mistaken. Seated in the front row, from right to left, is Doherty, then Zimmer, then Constable. Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University’s polling institute, is on the far-left side of that front row.
It’s not surprising that the governor’s office hopes to undermine the accuracy of the mayor’s claims, but in this case, her version is at least plausible – she was seated next to Constable, just as she claimed. Doherty’s account, which Team Christie is circulating, is simply mistaken.
That does not mean, of course, that we can say with certainty what, if anything, Zimmer and Constable discussed. What’s more, the public television station that aired the special has no recording of the pre-show conversations.
Still, this afternoon’s attempt to debunk the mayor’s story is off-base.