UPDATES ON SANDYGATE: Lt. Gov. Guadagno calls Mayor Zimmer's comments 'false;' Zimmer says she'll testify; Hoboken councilwoman/political opponent blasts her for not speaking up earlier; and a support group for 'bullied' NJ mayors
Jan 20, 2014 | 4143 views | 1 1 comments | 566 566 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Christie and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in 2011
Chris Christie and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in 2011
HOBOKEN -- What exactly did New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno say to Mayor Dawn Zimmer during a visit to Hoboken last May, and will a resulting scandal bring down Gov. Chris Christie?

On Monday, Guadagno called Zimmer's allegation that she told Zimmer she should support a $1 billion private development project if she wanted more Hurricane Sandy aid for Hoboken "false" and "illogical."

Zimmer went on MSNBC on Saturday morning to say that top Christie officials told her last May that she would not get more Hurricane Sandy aid unless she made it easier for a $1 private project proposed by the Rockefeller Group to go through. Port Authority official David Samson, a Christie ally, was serving as a private lobbyist for the New York-based development firm.

Saturday night, in an interview with the Reporter, Zimmer said she could not be 100 percent sure that Christie knew what Guadagno had told her. But by Sunday, Zimmer was saying that Guadagno had told her that the message came from Christie.

On Monday, Guadagno denied that she said anything of the sort to Zimmer, saying that they did discuss Sandy aid, and that Zimmer had talked about redevelopment in Hoboken. (The uptown project would be built in an area that was once industrial.) Also, Christie and others have denied the conversation.

Monday afternoon, the Christie administration also said that Hoboken has received tens of millions of dollars in various types of Sandy aid, not $300,000, as the mayor told the Reporter.

Ironically, Christie was involved in the start of New Jersey's "Operation Bid Rig" sting in 2009 that brought down dozens of politicians using a real estate developer who offered campaign contributions in exchange for support on his projects. Zimmer was running for mayor at the time and declined the offer to meet with the developer because she was against accepting developer contributions.

Guadagno said on Monday, "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. Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false."

Zimmer interviewed by the feds

However, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said Sunday that she spent several hours meeting with federal prosecutors about her allegations. She also turned over her diaries, which include a note scribbled in the margin claiming that Guadagno told Zimmer that she'd deny that the conversation ever took place, if Zimmer ever said anything in the future.

Sunday's meeting apparently took place in Newark and was held at the request of the U.S. Attorney's office, according to a statement from Zimmer.

Zimmer said, "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."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney, Paul J. Fishman, could not be immediately reached this weekend, though a report on NJ.com said that the prosecutor's office neither confirmed or denied that the meeting took place. Fishman is currently involved in the separate investigation into misconduct in Trenton regarding the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Hoboken councilwoman, a political opponent asks questions

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Beth Mason, who has unsuccessfully run for mayor against Zimmer in the past and has been a vocal opponent, issued a press release calling the allegations "deeply disturbing" but also asked why Zimmer kept silent.

"For the last year -- during which she was running for re-election on the same ballot as a popular governor -- she has been publicly praising Governor Christie while apparently secretly believing he is corrupt. During that entire time, she states she did not go to law enforcement authorities with any her concerns and has claimed only to have told her Chief of Staff about them. Did she obtain any advice on what to do from our Corporation Counsel? Anyone else?"

Mason pointed out that just two weeks ago, Zimmer said she had terminated a former employee, her public safety director, for not going to law enforcement to report being offered an apparent bribe by a developer (which actually was part of the "Bid Rig" sting). That former employee recently was awarded more than $1 million from the Zimmer administration by a jury in his wrongful termination suit.

Mason asked that Zimmer appear in front of the nine-member City Council at their next meeting to answer questions about the whole affair.

On Zimmer's Facebook page, comments have been largely supportive, calling her brave. Around the web, many comments called her brave and others have said she should have come forward sooner.

Last week, she told both the Hoboken Reporter and CNN that she didn't think the lack of Sandy aid was political retribution. She said over the weekend that her decision to come forward was "difficult."

Jersey jokes result

The drama unfolding in the Garden State has not gone unnoticed by the nation's humorists. Andy Borowitz sent out a bulletin saying, "A support group for mayors bullied by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held its first meeting today at the Prudential Center arena, in Newark...The event was interrupted fifteen minutes in, however, when power to the Prudential Center was abruptly cut off, plunging the arena into darkness. A spokesman from Gov. Christie’s office said that the sudden power outage was part of a routine electricity study."

Snowstorm may provide brief distractions

Meanwhile, Accuweather predicts that a winter storm may dump 4 to 8 inches of snow on Hoboken and the rest of Hudson County on Tuesday afternoon -- giving the governor perhaps a few hours to talk about something else...until it melts.

Check hudsonreporter.com, Hoboken's only newspaper, throughout the week for updates on this developing story. For questions or comments, email editorial@hudsonreporter.com and put "Christie" in the subject head. -- Dean DeChairo and Caren Matzner
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January 20, 2014

No1 in our 147-member book club [Manh] believes Guadagno or Constable. Zimmer's claims withstand ALL scrutiny...just look at your lying Republican faces on tape...or in foto while denying that you 2 are crooked, lack ethics, morals, smarts & need to be fired instantly. Go away, vulgar liars & threateners!