Trenton — In releasing the interview summaries from his internal investigation of the George Washington Bridge scandal, Governor Chris Christie confirmed how intertwined his environmental agencies were in his political operations, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Of the 75 persons interviewed by the law firm retained by Christie, eleven were from environmental agencies, principally, the Department of Environmental protection (DEP).
One major topic of the interviews conducted by Randy Mastro of the law firm engaged by Christie was pressures put on Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer to approve a controversial development project by the Rockefeller Group. Mayor Zimmer recounted being personally lobbied by both the Lt. Gov. and the Director of the Department of Community Affairs but, in addition the interview summaries –
- Describe three meetings between DEP and Hoboken officials. The meetings involved many high level DEP officials “which was not the norm for the DEP’s meetings with municipalities…” according to one witness who described herself as “intimidated”;
- Contain often flimsy and contradictory pretexts from top DEP officials for the meetings; and
- Detail how the Governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA), then run by Bridget Kelly, was in charge of deploying the political roll-out for every supposedly objective official act, such as the distribution of post-Sandy aid.
“Nixon had his CREEP – the Committee to Reelect the President – and Christie has his IGA,” remarked New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former long-time DEP analyst. “Agencies like DEP which are supposed to promote the environment have been subverted into promoting Christie’s political agenda.”
This widely ridiculed internal investigation did not delve deeply into related topics such as how Christie’s office politicized award of grants to municipalities to rebuild power infrastructure. Running up to his reelection, IGA made sure grants to favored municipalities received media attention and political plaudits.
After an analysis by PEER showed that grant awards violated the state’s own criteria and seemed designed to reward friends and punish perceived enemies, Christie’s office backtracked. Initially they blamed a contractor and then claimed there were data entry errors. Now they say they are starting calculations again from scratch by hand. Meanwhile, delays in Sandy relief lengthen principally due to these shenanigans.
“Christie’s tax-paid private investigators seemed eager to buy every exculpatory ‘dog-ate-my-homework’ canard offered by officials who obviously know better,” Wolfe added. “These guys can’t even run a decent cover-up.”
See DEP interview summaries for
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability