TRENTON, N.J. - The Christie administration withheld millions of dollars in Superstorm Sandy recovery grants from a New Jersey city because its mayor refused to sign off on a politically connected commercial development, the mayor said Saturday.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that Gov. Chris Christie's lieutenant governor and a top community development official told her recovery funds would flow to her city if she allowed the project to move forward.
Zimmer said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno pulled her aside at an event in May and told her Sandy aid was tied to the project -- a proposal from the New York City-based Rockefeller Group aimed at prime real estate in the densely populated city across the river from New York City.
"I was directly told the 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," Zimmer told The Associated Press.
"There is no way I could ethically do what the governor, through the lieutenant governor, is asking me to do."
Christie's office denied Zimmer's claims. Spokesman Colin Reed said the administration has been helping Hoboken secure assistance since Sandy struck.
Christie is already embroiled in another scandal involving traffic jams apparently manufactured to settle a political score. And Zimmer said Guadagno and Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, a member of Christie's cabinet, both delivered messages about Sandy aid in no uncertain terms.
Zimmer, who first spoke with MSNBC on Saturday, told the cable network that at another event in May Constable said "the money would start flowing to you" if she backed the project.
The Rockefeller Group did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press. In a statement to MSNBC, a spokesman said it had no knowledge of any information related to Zimmer's claims.
Zimmer, a Democrat, said she is willing to take a lie detector test or testify under oath about the conversations.
Christie's office called Zimmer's claims a political move.
"Gov. Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy," Reed said. "It's very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television."
The Sandy aid matter is the second time in recent weeks Christie's administration has been accused of exacting political retribution.
Christie's chief of staff, chief counsel, chief political strategist and two-time campaign manager have all been subpoenaed for documents related to the September closing of approach lanes near the George Washington Bridge, which led to traffic chaos in the town of Fort Lee across the river from New York City.
Twenty new subpoenas issued in that case Friday reach deep into the Christie administration and his re-election campaign, but spare the governor himself.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is reviewing the lane closings and a legislative panel is investigating who authorized the apparent plot and why.
Zimmer said she is telling her story in hopes that Hoboken receives more assistance in the second wave of relief funding yet to be approved by the federal government for distribution by the state.
Interviewed by the Associated Press last month, she voiced concerns about the lack of storm aid to her town, but expressed hope that the administration would come through in the next round. She did not mention the real estate development in the interview with the AP.