NJ Legislature, Federal prosecutors investigate allegations Christie's office withheld Sandy aid

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email

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Hoboken, NJ (ABC) -- A New Jersey legislator leading the state investigation into allegations of political wrong-doing by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday that his committee would also look into an accusation by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that the governor's office withheld storm relief funds from her city for political reasons.

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski said in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Zimmer's story "raises serious allegations" and they are something the investigative committee "has to consider as part of an overall investigation."

Wisniewski is currently investigating Christie and his administration, after it was revealed that his aides allegedly shut down toll lanes leading to the George Washington bridge as part of political retribution to the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. Christie has denied knowing about the motivation behind the lanes shut down.

Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, NJ., said Saturday in an appearance on MSNBC, that Christie officials told her that storm funds would be withheld unless she approved a development deal.

"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. 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," Zimmer said in a statement late Sunday.

Christie has vehemently denied allegations by Zimmer that millions of dollars in Sandy relief were withheld from Hoboken for political reasons.

She reiterated her claims on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," saying that she didn't come forward earlier because "she didn't believe that anyone would believe me" and that she was willing to testify under oath about the conversations.

On Saturday Christie's office denied the accusation and issued a statement said that Christie has "been helping Hoboken get the help they need" and that the city had received $70 million in federal aid and would likely get more when the next round of funding is approved.

"The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she's 'very glad' he's been our Governor," the statement read Saturday. "It's very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television."

Zimmer, initially appeared Saturday morning on the MSNBC show "UP with Steve Kornacki," said Christie administration officials told her multiple times that further Sandy funds would not be approved unless the major helped fast-track a new development.

Zimmer said although she had asked for around $100 million Hoboken had only received around $340,000 in Sandy aid from the state, even though the city was extensively flooded for days after the storm, leaving residents to wade through knee-high water that was filled with pollutants.

Christie spokesman Colin Reed said in a lengthy statement that Zimmer's $100 million in aid request was from a $300 million pot of money.

Zimmer did not return repeated requests for comment from ABC News.

The commercial development, planned by the Rockefeller Group, has been a political sore spot in the city since 2008, when the company first starting to speaking to city officials about the project.

Both Christie and his predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine, have supported the development, which Zimmer said would take up millions of square feet in a city that is only one square mile wide.

In an interview on radio station WNYC last weekend, Zimmer made no mention of the development project. She said only that Christie asked her to endorse him for re-election during a meeting.

"He was quite disappointed, but I wouldn't say that he was angry," she told WNYC.

"With 20/20 hindsight, in the context we're in right now, we can always look back and say, 'OK, was it retribution?'" Zimmer told the station. "I really hope that's not the case."

According to the Zimmer, Christie officials made it clear to her in the spring that development approval was needed for her to receive additional state aid for Sandy.

"The fact is the lieutenant governor [Kim Guadagno] came to Hoboken, she pulled me aside in the parking lot and said 'I know it's not right, I know these things should not be connected, but they are and if you tell anyone I'll deny it,'" Zimmer said.

In her appearance on CNN Sunday morning Zimmer said that Guadagno told her the request was a "direct message" from the governor.

According to the Associated Press, Christie spokesman Colin Reed issued a statement Sunday saying, "Mayor Zimmer's categorization about her conversation in Hoboken is categorically false."

Zimmer also alleged that she was pressured by New Jersey Commissioner Richard Constable to reconsider the development when they were at a television special. A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs called the accusation "categorically false."

Christie spokesman Reed said Zimmer had posted multiple messages of support for Christie on Twitter, even after the conversations last spring during which she says she was pressured to back the development.

Reed also pointed out multiple instances where Zimmer thanked Christie for his help in the days immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

ABC News' Josh Margolin and the Associated Press contributed to this article.


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