Another controversy threatens to overshadow Gov. Chris Christie’s second inauguration celebration on Tuesday.
Already embroiled in a scandal over George Washington Bridge lane closures, the Republican returned from a fundraising trip in Florida over the weekend to a new storm brewing back home in New Jersey over Hurricane Sandy aid.
As first reported on msnbc’s UP with Steve Kornacki, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer accused the Christie administration of using state-controlled relief funds as leverage to push forward a redevelopment plan in her city, which was ravaged from the storm in 2012.
Christie’s camp firmly denied those allegations, which sparked a fierce back-and-forth between the key players.
Here’s a breakdown of the events as they unfolded over the weekend:
1). Mayor alleges Christie held relief funding hostage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy
In an exclusive interview with msnbc’s Steve Kornacki, Mayor Zimmer claimed that two senior members of Christie’s team informed her that relief money for Hoboken would be held up unless she approved a redevelopment project backed by the governor. She singled out New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the officials who delivered the alleged ultimatum.
“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 Saturday. “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 Hoboken.”
2. Gov. Christie’s office and Constable hit back hard over Zimmer’s allegations
Christie’s team responded in full force, issuing two statements following the msnbc interview.
“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,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak wrote in a statement. “What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.”
Christie’s team directed part of its second response to this network. “MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him,” said spokesman Colin Reed.
Constable also denied allegations via spokeswoman Lisa M. Ryan. A statement read, “Mayor Zimmer’s allegation that on May 16, 2013, Commissioner Constable conditioned Hoboken’s receipt of Sandy aid on her moving forward with a development project is categorically false.”
3). The inquiry widens over Sandy relief funds: Zimmer meets with officials at U.S. attorney’s office
Mayor Zimmer released a statement later Saturday after meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark, New Jersey.
“This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney’s office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents,” she wrote. “As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project.”
4). Lt Gov. Kim Guadagno denies allegations in press conference
While acknowledging a conversation took place, the New Jersey lieutenant governor flatly denied the allegations that she threatened to withhold funds.
“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 on Monday. “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 mayor’s allegations particularly offensive to me.” Guadagno added, “The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.”
5. Zimmer doubles down on claims
Mayor Zimmer issued a new statement following Lt. Gov. Guadagno’s press conference on Monday morning, standing by her previous claims.
“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,” said Mayor Zimmer. “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. 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.”