(Updates with reaction from Hoboken mayor, paragraphs 7-9;
quotes from Christie interview, paragraphs 17-18)
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK Jan 20 New Jersey's lieutenant
governor on Monday denied a claim by the mayor of Hoboken that
Governor Chris Christie's administration linked release of
Superstorm Sandy relief funds to approval of a Hoboken
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says Lieutenant Governor Kim
Guadagno warned her that Christie would withhold disaster
recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a bid by the New
York-based Rockefeller Group to build on several blocks in he
New Jersey city.
The Democratic mayor's claim has added to political woes for
Christie, who is widely seen as a Republican contender for the
White House in 2016. Christie already is grappling with a
scandal tied to his top aides who seemingly punished the mayor
of Fort Lee, New Jersey, by orchestrating chaotic traffic jams
at the George Washington Bridge.
Christie has been on a fundraising trip in Florida over the
weekend. His spokesman has dismissed the Hoboken mayor's claims
as false, as did Guadagno on Monday at a public appearance in
Union Beach, New Jersey.
"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 that Sandy funds were tied to the approval
of any project in New Jersey is completely false," she said,
adding, "Being a Sandy victim myself makes the mayor's
allegations particularly offensive to me."
In response, the Hoboken mayor said she was "genuinely
disappointed" that Christie's second-in-command "would deny
linking Hoboken's application for Sandy hazard mitigation
funding with expediting a private development project."
Zimmer, who said she met on Sunday with members of the U.S.
Attorney's Office for New Jersey, said she gave them her
journal, which describes her conversation with Guadagno.
"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 in a statement.
Zimmer has said she and the lieutenant governor discussed
the Sandy funds in a parking lot before an event in Hoboken in
Recounting that conversation on CNN on Sunday, Zimmer said:
"The lieutenant governor said, essentially: 'You've got to move
forward with the Rockefeller project,'" Zimmer said on Sunday,
saying Guadagno called it "a direct message from the governor."
Zimmer also said she has only received a fraction of the
$127 million in relief funds she requested for Hoboken, which is
across the Hudson River from Manhattan and was badly flooded by
Sandy in late 2012.
The mayor first made her accusations on MSNBC on Saturday.
Guadagno said she looked forward to inquiries into the
controversy so the truth would emerge.
"I deny any suggestions made by Mayor Zimmer that there was
ever any condition placed on the release of Sandy funds by me,"
she said, adding that she was "surprised that Mayor Zimmer has
chosen to mischaracterize the conversation I had with her about
development and job creation in Hoboken."
Christie's weekend trip to Florida to raise money for
Republican Governor Rick Scott was his first political trip
since his office was engulfed by scandal this month.
Christie - who held a nearly two-hour-long news conference
on January 9 in which he said he had been blindsided and
humiliated by some of his staff, whom he accused of lying - said
in an interview published on Monday by Yahoo News that he
expected "to learn from this."
"I know I will. 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 said in the interview which Yahoo said
was conducted on Friday.
The political tempest erupted with the release of emails
that seemed to show some of his closest aides purposely snarling
traffic in Fort Lee by closing two out of three access lanes to
the busy bridge linking New Jersey and New York City.
The lane closures appeared to be retribution against Fort
Lee's Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for
Christie has said he did not know of his aides' plans, and
he fired and cut ties with them after their roles were revealed.
Federal prosecutors and both chambers of the state
legislature are investigating the lane closings, which occurred
without notice for four days in September.
Nearly two dozen New Jersey officials, including much of
Christie's inner circle, were served with subpoenas on Friday
over the lane closures.
Federal officials are also reviewing Christie's use of about
$2 million in storm Sandy relief funds for a tourism campaign
that features him and his family. New Jersey Democratic
Congressman Frank Pallone requested the probe, saying he was
concerned about the bidding process for the marketing campaign.
(Additional reporting by David Jones in Newark; Editing by
Barbara Goldberg and Jonathan Oatis)