Amid Headline-Grabbing Bridgegate Indictments, Hoboken Probe Comes to End

Scott Gurian | May 2, 2015 | Politics, Sandy
U.S. Attorney tells Christie administration cabinet officials that federal investigation has closed

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Sixteen months after Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer accused Christie administration officials of threatening to withhold Sandy aid if she didn’t support a redevelopment project in her city, the U.S. Attorney has concluded his investigation into the matter.

Zimmer had charged early last year that cabinet officials including Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and former Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable indicated to her that Sandy funding for Hoboken was dependent on her giving the green light to a real estate plan backed by the law firm of Christie ally and former Port Authority chairman David Samson.

In Zimmer’s telling of the story, Guadagno pulled her aside during a May 2013 visit to Hoboken to urge her to support the project because it was “very important to the governor.” Around that same time, she claimed that Constable — whose department oversaw the distribution of much of the federal Sandy aid to municipalities — had indicated that “If you move [the project] forward, the money would start flowing to you.” A separate allegation involved Marc Ferzan, former head of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding.

The day after Zimmer first came forward with her account of the Guadagno encounter in an interview on MSNBC, she said she spent several hours meeting with federal prosecutors, and several months later she met with them yet again, sharing copies of a personal diary where she had recounted her allegations.

An in-depth investigation by NJ Spotlight and WNYC in March 2014 found that Hoboken — along with numerous other Sandy-impacted municipalities throughout the state — had in fact been shortchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars of Sandy mitigation aid through a state-run fund for backup generators, but it did not uncover evidence that the funding decisions were politically motivated.

Now, amid more high-profile developments in the sprawling Bridgegate investigation, the federal probe into the Hoboken allegations appears to have officially ended.

“Based on the evidence developed during the investigation and our review of the applicable law, we have concluded that no further action is warranted in this matter,” said identical letters sent Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s office to lawyers representing both Guadagno and Constable.

Ferzan’s attorney has reportedly confirmed that his client received a similar letter.

Observers had long noted that the charges — which amounted largely to a “he said/she said” scenario –would be difficult to prove.

Still, Zimmer is not backing down.

“I stand behind my account, which was corroborated by substantial additional evidence. In addition to my contemporaneous journal entry, I told six people about the conversation on the day it occurred, including a lawyer representing the City of Hoboken,” she said in a statement on Friday.

“It is the U.S. Attorney’s responsibility to determine whether these facts, as well as whatever other information they obtained as a result of their investigation, constitute a criminal offense provable beyond a reasonable doubt,” she added.

“I believe that they have taken this matter seriously and respect the judgment that they have made.”