New Jersey governor's deputy denies storm ultimatum

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno: "I thought I had a good relationship with the mayor of Hoboken"

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's deputy has denied claims that they threatened to withhold disaster funds from a city hit by superstorm Sandy.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno told reporters the accusation was "wholly and completely false".

Hoboken's mayor alleges she was told her city could lose out on federal money unless she backed a real estate project favoured by Gov Christie.

It is the latest claim of corruption to hit the Republican governor.

He is often tipped as the party's top contender to take back the White House in 2016. According to some pollsters, he is one of the only Republicans who could beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, if she decided to run for president.

'Illogical'

But communications made public earlier this month suggest Gov Christie's senior staff orchestrated traffic gridlock in an act of political retaliation against another mayor who refused to endorse the governor's re-election.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to media and homeowners about the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy in Manahawkin, New Jersey, on 16 January 2014 Gov Christie's spokesman has strongly denied the latest accusation against his office

Separately, federal officials are investigating whether Gov Christie misused recovery funds in the wake of superstorm Sandy to finance an advertising campaign during an election year.

Then on Saturday, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that Lt Gov Guadagno had approached her in a car park in May last year and told her recovery funds would be disbursed to her city on condition she approved a property development by the New York-based Rockefeller Group.

The mayor - who has offered to take a lie-detector test or testify under oath about her claims - recalled Lt Gov Guadagno saying that it was "a direct message from the governor".

But at Monday morning's event in Union Beach, New Jersey, Lt Gov Guadagno said that as a victim herself of superstorm Sandy she found the Hoboken mayor's allegations "particularly offensive".

"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," she said.

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

A spokesman for Gov Christie issued a statement late on Saturday denying the alleged political strong arm tactics.

Hoboken, a low-lying city across the Hudson river from New York City, was inundated with flood waters when Sandy struck in October 2012. Gov Christie's handling of the recovery effort greatly boosted his popularity.

The city received $342,000 (£210,000) out of an initial $1.8bn of federal aid distributed by the state, Mayor Zimmer said. Another rollout of funding is due to disburse $1.4bn.

The Hoboken mayor said at the weekend that she had decided to speak out now in the hope that her city would not lose out on the second tranche of aid, and because she thought no-one would have believed her beforehand.

The Rockefeller Group has denied the claims, which relate to plans for a 40-storey office tower and commercial development in Hoboken.

In a statement to US media at the weekend, it said: "We have no knowledge of any information pertaining to this allegation. If it turns out to be true, it would be deplorable."

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