Speaking at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event in Union Beach, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno publicly denied claims made over the weekend by Democratic Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer. Zimmer claims that Guadagno told her Hurricane Sandy relief funds would be withheld if she did not approve a development plan put forth by the Gov. Chris Christie-connected Rockefeller Group.
"Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined," Guadagno said. "Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false."
On Saturday in an appearance on MSNBC, Zimmer said that Guadagno took her aside during a public event in Hoboken last year and asserted that the availability of Sandy relief funds hinged on her giving approval to the Rockefeller plan for the city's North End.
The following day in an appearance on CNN, Zimmer upped the ante by saying Guadagno, who is often portrayed as the liaison between the business community and the governor's office, told her it was a "direct message" from Christie.
Having not given approval for the project, Zimmer said Hoboken, which encountered severe flooding during Sandy, only received about $300,000 in aid despite a request for approximately $100 million. Christie spokesperson Colin Reed refuted that claim over the weekend, saying that Hoboken was approved for $70 million in aid.
The allocation of the funds has been further disputed. While Zimmer said the $70 million figure came through flood insurance and other measures that did not require approval from the Christie administration, Reed said that Zimmer requested the $100 million from a fund that only totaled $300 million for the entire state.
Zimmer produced entries from her personal journal, which she said corroborates her claims. Those entries, along with other related documents, have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office, Zimmer has said.
"She pulls me aside with no one else and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project," Zimmer wrote, referring to Guadagno in a May 2013-dated journal entry. "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.'"
Zimmer also said that she's willing to testify to any of her claims as well as take a lie-detector test.
Guadagno said Monday that Zimmer's claims "surprised" her, given that just three months after the alleged conversation the pair walked through the streets of Hoboken as allies. Guadagno added that having to address Zimmer's claims during an event in a Sandy-ravished area was "particularly offensive."
"The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false," Guadagno said. "I thought I had a good relationship with the mayor of Hoboken."
At the time, Rockefeller was represented by Port Authority chairman David Samson's Wolff & Samson law firm. Samson, a Christie appointee, was issued a subpoena last week for any documentation related to his alleged involvement in the ongoing George Washington Bridge scandal that has engulfed Christie's office.
Zimmer also claims that around the same last year, state commissioner of community affairs Richard Constable approached her when the two were members of a panel discussion.
"We are mic'd up with other panelists all around us, and probably the sound team is listening, and he says 'I hear you're against the Rockefeller project … If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you,'" she wrote in reference to Constable.
The Department of Community Affairs, Wolff & Samson and the Rockefeller Group have all since put out public statements denying Zimmer's claims.
While Zimmer did not endorse Christie in his 2013 reelection bid, she has been known to publicly praise his efforts.
For Christie, the allegations come at a time when several members of his inner circle, as well as his office, were recently issued subpoenas over the bridge scandal and an additional investigation has been launched into his administration's handling of Sandy aid for marketing purposes.
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