Saturday the mayor of the town of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, alleged that the reason Hoboken received only $342,000 in Sand relief funds was because she refused to back a development being pushed by the Rockefeller Group.
Mayor Zimmer said that on two occasions, she was sent a message that Sandy funds were being held up because when refused to back this 19 block development. She said that a member Christie’s cabinet delivered the message before taping of a TV show, and then by the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey herself.
Zimmer said that Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno pulled her aside after an event at the Hoboken Shop Rite and told her in effect if she wanted Sandy funds, she needed to back the project. According to Zimmer, this message came directly from the Governor himself. She said the Lt. Governor added that if she says anything about this conversation “I’ll deny it.”
On Monday, the Lt. Governor made good on that promise—she denied it categorically. “I deny any suggestion made by Mayor [Dawn] Zimmer that there was ever any condition placed on the release of Sandy funds by me. After issuing her denial, Guadagno left without taking questions.
Lt. Governor Guadagno did not deny that a conversation took place at the Shop Rite; she just denied what the conversation was about. “Mayor Zimmer's version ... is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined,” she said.
Mayor Zimmer is sticking to her story. She has met with Federal prosecutors, at their request, and turned over her journal and other documents. The conversation, which we know took place from both participants, had no witnesses and no one was recording it. So who do we believe?
Here are some clues.
Mayor Zimmer had no apparent partisan motive to “pile-on” the Governor. Although she is a Democrat, she has worked closely with Christie, and praised him publicly on repeated occasions. Further if she is lies to federal authorities about this, she could do time in prison. She knew that before she went public, knew it before she talked to prosecutors, and did so anyway.
Secondly, Mayor Zimmer has repeatedly stated she would be willing to testify under oath and take a lie detector. She has already turned over her journal to authorities. If we contrast that with what we have seen from the Lt. Governor and other members of the Christie circle thus far, they have not been so forthcoming.
The only Christie appointee questioned thus far redacted the documents he turned over concealing essential information, and then took the fifth refusing to answer a single question. The Lt. Governor refused to answer a single question after making her vehement denial. Christie himself has not committed to comply with his office’s subpoena.
Thirdly, there might be a clue in body language. Mayor Zimmer has done multiple televised interviews and answered all reporters’ questions. She has yet to look at any notes or cue cards. Her statements have been consistent. On the other hand, look at the video of the Lt. Governor’s denial. She continually referred to written prepared notes. Wouldn't it seem that if her memory is so clear about what she said, she would not have to read it from a statement?
Lastly, there is a clue in what the Lt. Governor did not say. She was vehement that Zimmer’s “version” was a lie, but she did not give a single word about her version. Perhaps no one thought to add that to her prepared notes.
Christie’s office issued a statement saying Hoboken received $70 million-in line with other towns. It also said Hoboken did not suffer all that much damage. That $70 million includes money property owners got from the flood insurance they paid premiums on. It was not Sandy relief money and the Governor had nothing to do with it. He was puffing numbers to hide the fact he handed out $342,000 to a city where 1,200 buildings suffered “major” damage-the most in New Jersey.
Despite these clues, we do not know for sure what happened-yet. We do know Hoboken received only $342,000 out of $250,000 million Christie handed out in Sandy funds.
The bottom line is Bridgegate might evolve into Sandygate. None of this is what Christie expected on his second inauguration day.