Christie Aide Calls Hoboken Mayor’s Claim ‘Libelous’

Jan 20, 2014 2:12pm

UNION BEACH, N.J.– Two top officials of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration today denied an accusation by the mayor of Hoboken that they threatened to withhold Sandy relief money unless the mayor backed a development project, and one of the officials called the claim “libelous.”

But Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer insisted today, “I stand by my word.”

Zimmer accused New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable  over the weekend of indicating Hoboken would not get Sandy relief funds without the mayor’s support for a development project in Hoboken.

The allegation came as Christie’s administration is under investigation for allegedly turning Fort Lee, N.J., into a gigantic traffic jam in political retaliation against the Fort Lee mayor.  Zimmer’s accusation was seen as another example of Christie’s alleged bully behavior. On Sunday, Zimmer told CNN she believed the message about Sandy money came directly from Christie.

“Mayor Zimmer’s allegations are patently false and absurd on their face,” Constable said today. “I welcome a full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims.”

Guadagno traveled to Union Beach today to help rebuild a home that was devastated by last year’s superstorm Sandy. Before beginning work, she read a statement to cameras stressing she “den(ies) any suggestion made my Mayor Zimmer that there was ever any condition placed on the release of Sandy funds by me.”

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

She called the allegations “offensive” and said she believed up until this weekend she had a “good relationship” with Zimmer and she was “surprised” she chose to ” “mischaracterize the conversation I had with her about development and job creation in Hoboken.”

Guadagno said she “look(s) forward to the inquiries.”

The lieutenant governor took no questions. Zimmer has also not returned repeated requests for comment from ABC News.

Zimmer, who spent two hours being interviewed by federal prosecutors this weekend, said in a statement after Guadagno’s comment that she was “genuinely disappointed that Lieutenant Governor Guadagno has lived up to her promise that she would deny linking Hoboken’s application for Sandy hazard mitigation funding with expediting a private development project.”

“I met with the U.S. Attorney for over two hours yesterday, answered all their questions and turned over my journal in which I described my conversation with the Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner Constable,” Zimmer said in her statement. “I stand by my word, remain willing to testify under oath, and I will continue to answer any questions asked of me by the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

Christie has no public schedule Monday, but his swearing-in for his  second term is Tuesday. He spent the weekend fundraising in Florida holding events for Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Governors Association, where Christie serves as chairman.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report

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 Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno Tanya Breen/The Asbury Park Press/AP Photo

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