Second scandal hits Republican governor Christie
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The administration of Republican Governor Chris Christie pushed back against a claim on Monday that Superstorm Sandy relief funding was withheld from a severely flooded city because its Democratic mayor wouldn’t sign off on a real estate venture.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno denied claims made by Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Christie would have withheld disaster recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a bid by the New York-based Rockefeller Group to build in the New Jersey city.
Zimmer said on Saturday that Guadagno pulled her aside at a supermarket opening in May and said Hoboken’s storm recovery funds hinged on Zimmer’s approval of a commercial development whose lawyer and lobbyist are close to Governor Christie. Zimmer told CNN the ultimatum was delivered on behalf of the governor.
Zimmer met with investigators from the US attorney’s office for several hours on Sunday and gave them journal entries she said were made at the time of the conversation. She has also offered to take a lie detector test or testify under oath.
‘False and illogical’ claims
Guadagno said the mayor’s description of the conversation “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,” she said.
Marc Ferzan, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, told reporters in a conference call on Monday that Hoboken has been treated no differently than other cities with respect to storm relief funds.
Ferzan said the state has received more than $14 billion in requests statewide for hazard mitigation grants but has only about $300 million to disburse. Christie administration officials have said Hoboken has requested more than $100 million in such funding.
The Democratic mayor's claim has added to Christie's political woes, whose second-term inauguration is on Tuesday. The governor was, until recently, widely seen as one of the strongest Republican contenders for the White House in 2016.
But he is currently grappling with another scandal tied to his top aides who seemingly punished the mayor of a city in New Jersey by orchestrating havoc-wreaking traffic jams on a major bridge into the town, an affair which is being investigated by federal authorities and state legislators.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who is leading the probe, said the new allegations may be part of a pattern of abuses of power in the Christie administration and would be treated seriously.
Republicans called the investigation partisan and called on Wisniewski to step down.
Wisniewski said the investigation by his bipartisan panel would continue.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)