The lieutenant governor of New Jersey on Monday flatly denied a mayor’s allegation that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration withheld hurricane relief money because the mayor would not support a real estate project important to the governor.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno called the charge false, illogical and offensive.
“The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false,” she said at an appearance in the New Jersey town of Union Beach.
Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, told MSNBC on Saturday that Guadagno, at a meeting in May 2013, explicitly tied relief money from Hurricane Sandy to the real estate project.
Zimmer said that Guadagno threatened to deny the allegation if the mayor ever went public with it. Zimmer also supplied personal diary entries that she says support her account.
The mayor said Sunday that she met with the U.S. attorney’s office for several hours. the office is already looking into whether the Christie administration ordered lanes closed at the George Washington Bridge last September to punish a political adversary.
Guadagno did not take questions at the event Monday.
“I deny any suggestion made by Mayor Zimmer that there was ever any condition on the release of Sandy funds by me,” she said.
She added: “Standing in Union Beach, as we are today, with some of the mayors whose towns were devastated by Sandy, and also being a Sandy victim myself, makes the mayor’s allegations particularly offensive to me.”
Zimmer told MSNBC that she had requested $127 million in state-controlled hurricane relief money for the city but received only $342,000.
Christie’s office responded by pointing out posts on Twitter in which Zimmer had praised the governor. It also called MSNBC “a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.”
The governor’s office also said Hoboken has received approval for $70 million in hurricane relief overall, including federal flood insurance payments and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Zimmer issued a statement Monday saying she was “genuinely disappointed” that Guadagno lived up to her promise to deny linking the Sandy money to the real estate project.
“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,” she said.
The real estate project was proposed by a development company represented by the law firm of David Samson, Christie’s handpicked chairman of the Port Authority, the agency that controls the George Washington Bridge.
Samson was among 17 Christie associates who were ordered last week to turn over documents to a state Assembly committee looking into the lane closures at the bridge.
Yahoo News on Monday published an interview from Friday in which Christie vowed to “learn things from this.”
“I know I will,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what it is yet that I’ll learn from it. But when I get the whole story and really try to understand what’s going on here, I know I’m going to learn things.”
Christie told Yahoo that when he learned of emails in which his staff appeared to order the lanes closed, it was “completely disorienting, like I got hit across the forehead with a two-by-four.”
Christie is fighting allegations of a pattern of political bullying.
Mayor Dina Long of Sea Bright, one of the first Democrats to endorse Christie for re-election, told NBC News on Monday that she was never bullied or pressured by the Christie administration in exchange for hurricane money.
“I offered my endorsement based on Governor Christie’s response to Hurricane Sandy,” she said. “Having lived through a natural disaster, I would hope any Governor would respond as Governor Christie has. No one threatened me or made promises in exchange for support. All of the allegations flying back and forth right now make it embarrassing to say I am an elected official in New Jersey.”
The Washington Post reported that Long lost her position as chair of the local party committee after she made the endorsement.
Katy Tur and Michael Isikoff of NBC News contributed to this report.