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Christie lawyers' report rejects Hoboken mayor's Sandy aid claims; mayor calls it 'whitewash'

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NEWARK, New Jersey — Members of Gov. Chris Christie's administration didn't pressure Hoboken's mayor to approve a development project by tying it to Superstorm Sandy aid, according to a report released Thursday by a law firm hired by the governor. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer immediately termed the report a "one-sided whitewash."

The taxpayer-funded report by the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher also concluded that Christie had no knowledge in the planning or execution of lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last September, an event allegedly orchestrated by Christie staff and at the heart of state and federal investigations.

Zimmer made her allegations in several television interviews she gave in January as questions about the bridge lane closures broadened to include an examination of the Christie administration's dealings in other areas.

"Our investigation found that Mayor Zimmer's allegations are, in material respects, demonstrably false," Thursday's report concluded. "They are contradicted by contemporaneous documents, other witnesses' accounts, and her own prior statements. In sum, the subjective perceptions she may have do not match objective reality, as reflected in the hard evidence uncovered during our investigation."

Zimmer declined to be interviewed for the report by Christie attorney Randy Mastro but has been interviewed by the U.S. attorney's office about her allegations. In an email Thursday, Zimmer called the report's conclusions "sadly predictable" and criticized the expense borne by taxpayers.

"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," she wrote. "This report only reinforces the soundness of the decision I made not to cooperate with Mr. Mastro's 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."

Zimmer alleges she was approached last year by, among others, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable to advance a stalled real estate project in Hoboken. Zimmer says she was led to believe her approval of the project was tied to how much Sandy aid Hoboken would receive; she told TV interviewers she took notes about the meetings with Guadagno and Constable after they happened.

Thursday's report said that Zimmer has given differing accounts of the meetings and that her recollections are flawed or mistaken. For instance, it offered an account from Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty, who sat next to Zimmer on a panel on a PBS show and said he didn't hear Constable mention the development project as Zimmer later claimed.

Regarding Guadagno, Zimmer told The Associated Press in January that she was "directly told by the lieutenant governor — she made it very clear — that the Rockefeller project needed to move forward or they wouldn't be able to help me."

Thursday's report disputed that account and claimed it was Zimmer who approached Guadagno at a public event in Hoboken to pitch her ideas on a comprehensive flood plan for Hoboken.

Guadagno was "pushing back on Mayor Zimmer's funding demands and unwarranted assumption that the stalled Rockefeller Group project was why Hoboken was not getting more Sandy aid," the report states.

The report said Hoboken received the Community Development Block Grant it applied for, about $200,000, as well as $142,000 in hazard mitigation funding that was comparable to what other towns received.

Guadagno, who has denied Zimmer's claims, said in a statement Thursday that "after an exhaustive review, it is clear that Mayor Zimmer's allegations do not stand up to scrutiny."

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