Attorney Joseph Maraziti, who represents the city of Hoboken on various matters related to redevelopment and land use, was subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney in early March as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations by Mayor Dawn Zimmer against high-ranking officials in the administration of Gov. Christopher Christie, city spokesman Juan Melli said last week. The subpoena prompted a resolution by the City Council on Wednesday allowing Maraziti to cooperate with the investigation.
The resolution waived the city’s attorney-client privilege with Maraziti, who the city has retained as a land use lawyer in several cases, including its dealings with the Rockefeller Group, a developer hoping to build on a property in the northwest of town.
Maraziti, who represented the city last year as it moved forward with a plan to rehabilitate that area, is now free to speak openly about any knowledge he has relating to Zimmer's allegations against the governor's top aides.
The resolution waiving the privilege passed by a 7-1-1 vote on Wednesday. Second Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, a political opponent of Zimmer, voted against it, while 1st Ward Councilman Theresa Castellano abstained.
It is still unclear why Maraziti would not have advised Zimmer to take the matter to the authorities last year.
Zimmer has said that she had the conversation with Guadagno last May, but didn’t tell anyone for eight months because she wasn’t sure anyone would believe her. In the wake of other allegations against the Christie administration, she came forward.
But according to various media accounts, Zimmer told five people last spring and summer about the conversation. Sources speculated that four of them were Melli, Chief of Staff Dan Bryan, Councilman-at-Large David Mello, and Zimmer’s husband. On Thursday, Melli confirmed that Maraziti was among the confidants.
“Mayor Zimmer spoke with Mr. Maraziti on the same day she met with the Lieutenant Governor [Guadagno],” he said in an email.
Melli was asked why Maraziti, as an attorney, would not have advised Zimmer to go to authorities about the conversation.
Melli did not answer the question, but said, “We cannot discuss exactly what was discussed since it’s under investigation.”
The council resolution states that Maraziti will now be free to speak to the U.S. Attorney and the New Jersey state legislature regarding the independent investigations being conducted by both.
Despite voting in favor of the resolution, 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo blasted Zimmer's administration for keeping the council “in the dark” about the substance of Maraziti's potential testimony. Mason and Castellano both echoed Russo's statements.
Mello, one of the people Zimmer told about her alleged conversation with Guadagno prior to going public, said the step was an important one for the city in order to show that it “in no way is obstructing the progress of a neutral investigation.”
On Thursday, Zimmer said that her administration's decision to relieve Maraziti of his attorney-client privilege was not a reaction to the recent publication of a Christie-funded report that concluded the mayor's allegations against Christie were “demonstrably false.”
Zimmer had called the report, which appears to exonerate Christie of all blame, a “whitewash.”
“The waiver of privilege was a direct response to a subpoena from the US Attorney's Office,” she said Thursday. “Its sole purpose is to facilitate complete cooperation with all appropriate investigations.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org