An internal investigation commissioned by Gov. Christopher Christie’s office has concluded that allegations made by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer against high-ranking officials in the governor’s administration were “demonstrably false.”
Zimmer alleged in January that she was approached by Christie aides and appointees last spring and summer and told Sandy aid would reach Hoboken faster if she helped shepherd a lucrative uptown development deal. However, a report by the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, a firm with friendly ties to the governor, said Zimmer’s allegations “are contradicted by... documents, other witnesses’ accounts, and her own prior statements.”
Christie had ordered the investigation in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal.
By the end of the day on Thursday, Zimmer issued a spitfire response to what she said was a waste of taxpayer money rigged by Christie’s lawyer, Randy Mastro, from the start.
“Randy Mastro could have written his report the day he was hired and saved the taxpayers the million dollars in fees he billed in generating this one-sided whitewash of serious misconduct by the Christie Administration,” said Zimmer in a statement. “This report only reinforces the soundness of the decision I made not to cooperate with [the] so-called investigation. To do so would only have leant credibility to an effort that, unfortunately for the taxpayers of New Jersey, has no credibility or legitimacy whatsoever.”
The Mastro report, almost 350 pages in length, focuses primarily on the lane closings, but contains well over 100 pages attempting to debunk Zimmer’s accusations. Many of the arguments have been made before: if Zimmer was being truthful, why did she praise the governor’s Sandy response on several occasions after the alleged intimidation?
The report also addressed what it claimed were several shifts in Zimmer’s statements in the days following her original accusations on national television. It argued that Zimmer had misunderstood, mischaracterized, or simply misheard her conversations with Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and two top Christie aides.
The report refers to articles in the Hoboken Reporter and other media.
The report questioned the integrity of the mayor’s own evidence, primarily her diary, noting that the most crucial passages could have easily been added later to provide context for her accusations.
“Whatever subjective perceptions [Zimmer] may have do not match objective reality, as reflected in the hard evidence uncovered during our investigation,” the report said. “Mayor Zimmer herself called the sequence of events that she has alleged ‘unbelieveable.’ Based on our investigation, we would have to agree.”
E-mail is curious
A previously unreleased email from Zimmer to a chief political strategist for Gov. Christopher Christie, included in the report, could be problematic for the mayor.
In the message, which was apparently sent by Zimmer to Christie’s chief political consultant Mike Duhaime last August, the mayor wrote that she would be “more than happy to come and say a quick hello and welcome Gov. Christie when he comes to Hoboken tomorrow.”
The email contains a “heads up” for Duhaime that Zimmer had been contacted by a reporter asking about the discrepancy between Sandy aid awarded to Brick Township as opposed to Hoboken, apparently wondering if it had anything to do with Zimmer’s decision not to endorse Christie.
According to the report, Zimmer wrote that she planned “to reach out to the governor's office to try to understand the difference in the funding sources between Brick and Hoboken so that I can better respond going forward. I doubt this reporter is going to run anything because I did not give them anything to report but I just wanted to let you know that may be what some people are trying to spin."
While this email does not contradict Zimmer's claim that the Christie administration may have held up aid for other reasons, it shows the mayor appearing to curry favor with Christie against questions from the media.
In her statement, Zimmer claimed that Mastro’s investigation could not possibly represent the truth because Mastro did not interview anyone under oath. Since she made her allegations in January, Zimmer repeatedly said she would testify under oath about her meetings with the governor’s aides.
It is likely that two additional investigations into Christie’s alleged wrongdoing, one being conducted by the state legislature and another by the U.S. attorney, will force both sides to testify under oath.
When that time comes, Zimmer will have serious questions to answer about her public statements and the exact nature of her meetings with Christie officials.
Zimmer spokesman Juan Melli declined on Thursday to answer questions about the report, saying Zimmer would wait until she had read the entire Mastro document.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com