Christie Took Nearly a Year to Implement Federal Sandy Aid law, Report Says
Even as hard evidence stays frustratingly elusive, controversies swirling around Chris Christie continue to make stomachs turn. A report by MSNBC's Steve Kornacki Saturday morning is now suggesting that the Christie administration dragged its feet — perhaps willfully — on implementing a law requiring the use of "integrity monitors" to make sure the aid money was properly used. If Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's allegations turn out to be true, then these new revelations won't be hard to believe.
Here's what the story comes down to: Nearly a year ago, in March 2013, the "Integrity Monitor Act" was signed, to be effective immediately. The bill required independent monitors to oversee how the New Jersey government would distribute the billions in relief aid — effectively, all projects requiring $5 million and over would have had a watchdog. But in spite of the fact that specific monitors were approved in May, integrity monitors weren't actually put in place until January 2014. That's right, last month.
Moreover, very soon after "Integrity Monitor Act," Christie vetoed a law that would have set up a website to track the spending of the aid money, calling it redundant — but the legislature didn't, according to Kornacki, get any of the quarterly reports they were supposed to be receiving.
Worse, it turns out that the director of one of those integrity monitors, hired by Chris Christie, is none other than Todd Christie, the governor's brother. The firm, Ernst & Young, told Kornacki that Todd Christie hadn't been part of the Sandy monitoring, and Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts pointed out that the company has over 175,000 employees.
Roberts' explanation for the delay in implementation? The monitors have spent the last 10 months in training. As to the lack of required quarterly reports to the Legislature? "[None] have been filed because none have yet been due," Roberts said.
At this point, the Christie administration has used millions of dollars in Sandy aid for various projects, including one highlighted by Kornacki, a project in Belleville, supposedly for senior citizens with very little connection to Hurricane Sandy. Because of the slow implementation of the "Integrity Monitor Act," there's just no way of knowing how much — if any — monitoring there was over those funds. In light of the recent allegations regarding Christie's penchant for using sandy money as a political slush fund — well, it doesn't look good for the governor.
The report comes, of course, only hours after David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official at the center of the Bridgegate scandal, accused the governor of knowing about the lane closures in Fort Lee last year. But although Wildstein claimed to have evidence that Christie was lying when he pleaded ignorance about the George Washington Bridge closures back in January, Christie's office unequivocally denied the claims. Pity that they've pretty much lost all credibility at this point.