(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
N.J. Governor Chris Christie's office has denied accusations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that it purposefully withheld large amounts of Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Zimmer said she would take a lie-detector test to prove that her claims are true.
CNN reported that N.J. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is expected on Monday to "categorically deny" accusations that Christie blocked the funds after Zimmer refused to agree to a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.
"Mayor Zimmer has been effusive in her public praise of the Governor's Office and the assistance we've provided in terms of economic development and Sandy aid. What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone's guess," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement on Saturday following Zimmer's interview on MSNBC where she first made the accusation.
Zimmer, a Democrat, said it is "unfair" that Republican Governor Christie was holding relief funds for Hoboken "hostage" because she refused to agree to the redevelopment plan that would benefit a single private developer, adding that she would take a lie-detector if needed.
"… I know it's very complicated for the public to really understand all of this, but I have a legal obligation to follow the law, to bring balanced development to Hoboken," Zimmer said, revealing that she asked for $127 million in Sandy relief, but received only $142,000 for a generator and $200,000 in recovery grants.
The Hoboken mayor argued that she would be willing to testify under oath to prove her claims. "And, you know, my question back to them is, 'Would all of you? Would all of you be willing do that same thing, to testify under oath, to take a lie detector test?'" she said of Christie's representatives.
Sandy became one of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the Eastern seaboard in recorded history, killing over 148 people and costing close to $68 billion in damages when it hit on October 2012. At the time, Christie estimated that $29.4 billion would be needed to clean up New Jersey alone, and promised that he would "spare no effort and waste no time" to rebuild and restore the infrastructure and the lives of the affected citizens.
Following Zimmer's accusations of withheld funds, Christie spokesman Colin Reed fired back at MSNBC for the story and called it a "partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week."
Zimmer repeated her accusations in another interview with CNN, saying that they are "stunning" and "outrageous," but true.
"I stand by my word," the Hoboken mayor insisted.
N.J. Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chair of the Select Committee on Investigations, called the accusations a serious matter, and one that the committee will be looking into.
"The allegations discussed today by Mayor Zimmer are serious and yet again raise concern about abuse of government power. This certainly has attracted our attention. We need to obtain all relevant facts, confer with our special counsel and determine the committee's best course of action," Wisniewski said in a statement.
Earlier in January, Christie denied that he knew a key member of his staff ordered the closing down of a major bridge between New York City and Fort Lee, N.J., causing substantial traffic delays, as retribution for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refusing to endorse the governor for his 2013 re-election bid.
"Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens under my watch, the good and the bad," Christie said. "All I can do is apologize for the conduct of people who worked for me - I can't reverse time, but if I could, I would."