Home > Uncategorized > Mastro Report Documents Christie Directive Through IGA to DEP – Regulatory Approvals Are DEP’s “Quid” in Hoboken Rockefeller Development – Sandy Aid Shakedown

Mastro Report Documents Christie Directive Through IGA to DEP – Regulatory Approvals Are DEP’s “Quid” in Hoboken Rockefeller Development – Sandy Aid Shakedown

Gov. Christie Personally Directed Series of DEP Meetings to Discuss “economic development in Hoboken”

Hoboken Mayor’s role in the Sandy aid shakedown was related to local development approvals of Rockefeller

But DEP regulatory approvals for Rockefeller are completely ignored

The Rockefeller Group was worried about the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and their granting of permits, and someone from the Rockefeller Group mentioned that Mayor Zimmer had met with Commissioner Bob Martin from the DEP and Commissioner Martin painted a bleak picture. Reiner did not recall there being a specific request from the Rockefeller Group during this meeting.  ~~~ March 11, 2013 meeting, per Reiner interview

Do reporters think it is appropriate and standard operating procedure for the Gov. to have his political arm (Office of Intergovernmental Affairs) arrange a series of private Commissioner and high level DEP meetings with a major corporation like the Rockefeller Development Group to discuss DEP regulatory approvals for a billion dollar development project?  ~~~  Bill Wolfe

[Update below]

There are two primary events that are driving the various Christie scandal investigations: 1) the GWB lane closures; and 2) the alleged “shakedown” of Hoboken Mayor Zimmer.

Investigations of those two events have generated many secondary spinoff stories, including Gov. Christie’s use of the Port Authority as a “political piggy bank”; ethical conflicts and revolving door abuses by former Port Authority Chair David Samson and Lori Grifa of Wolff & Samson law firm; and the numerous tales of political intrigue and personal mini-dramas of the Christie Administration players that have emerged as the inside story has been revealed.

Of the two, the Hoboken shakedown is clearly the more serious criminal abuse.

So today – especially given our DEP experience – we want to focus on critical and under-reported aspects of the Hoboken shakedown as it is told in the Mastro Report: the highly revealing and crucial role of DEP in the scandal.

The interview summaries for that Mastro Report reveal significant details about the Gov.’s Office, the Rockefeller Development Group, and corrupt politicization of DEP regulatory oversight.

Tons of media stories have been written about the Mastro Report and the alleged “shakedown”, or  quid pro quo at play in Hoboken.

That quid pro quo went something like this: Mayor Zimmer has alleged that Sandy aid to Hoboken was used as blackmail to pressure her for support  – in the form of local development approvals – for the proposed billion dollar Rockefeller development.

Gov. Christie so called “exoneration”, i.e. the Mastro Report, spends a lot of time on this issue.

Mastro interviewed 75 Christie Administration officials. The Report includes “summaries” of those interviews.

Of that total interviewed, 9 were DEP officials, 1 was from the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust, and 1 was a former DEP Assistant Commissioner now in Gov. Office. So 11 of the 75 people interviewed were involved in environmental approvals. 

Mastro interview summaries reveal that there were a series of 3 meetings with Rockefeller and DEP regarding “regulatory approvals for Hoboken development” and “permits”.

Those DEP meetings were arranged at the direction of Gov. Christie to explore “economic development in Hoboken” (see Constable interview summary @ page 8 re: Feb. 25, 2013 email from Renna):

On or about February 25, 2013, Constable received an email from Christina Renna in the Governor’s Intergovernmental Affairs office stating, among other things, that the Governor met with Mayor Zimmer the previous week, and that the Governor wanted Constable and Martin to meet with Mayor Zimmer to discuss economic development in Hoboken.

The DEP meeting was set up by the Gov.’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) (see Renna and Constable summaries).

The Rockefeller Development Group was invited by IGA to the March 5 DEP meeting: (Renna)

Renna believed that Kelly asked Renna to set up the meeting between DEP Commissioner Martin and Community Affairs Commissioner Constable, and Mayor Zimmer. …

Prior to the meeting on March 5, Mowers sent an email to Renna asking if it was OK for the Rockefeller Group to be part of the meeting with Mayor Zimmer and the Commissioners.  Renna recalled that she did not know who the Rockefeller Group was, and the only reason she remembers the Rockefeller Group now is because that Renna went to Kelly to ask who the Rockefeller Group was. Renna recalled Kelly said that Lori Grifa represented the Rockefeller Group. Renna can not recall whether Kelly said whether it was or was not a problem for the Rockefeller Group to attend the meeting,  but Renna said that she would not have made the decision for the Rockefeller Group to participate in the March 5, 2013 meeting without clearing it through Kelly.

There is a direct tie to Gov. Christie and the issue of endorsement (Renna @ page 19):

Renna recalled emailing David Glass (DEP Deputy Chief of Staff & Legislative Liaison) to set up the meeting between DEP and Mayor Zimmer, but after reviewing the email exchange to that effect, Renna surmised that the meeting referenced in Renna’s email to Glass (wherein Renna says, “Late last week, Governor Christie met with Mayor Zimmer of Hoboken to discuss a whole host of issues”) was probably the February 2013 meeting in which the Governor specifically asked Mayor Zimmer to consider endorsing. Renna said that she did not attend the meeting.

  • The March 5 DEP meeting – “Birkenstock crowd”

There was a March 5 meeting with DEP Commissioner Martin, DCA Commissioner Constable, Gov. Office (Mowers), Rockefeller Development Group, and Hoboken Mayor Zimmer.

Remarkably, Martin somehow can’t recall the name of the “two or three others” at the meeting and the “consulting firm” (i.e. Rockefeller Development Group). But Martin DID recall this – note how Martin downplays and makes anything related to Rockefeller seem to come from Mayor Zimmer, despite the fact that Rockefeller was invited by the Gov.’s Office:

Martin recalled that Mayor Zimmer then mentioned that the Rockefeller Group potentially could play a role in putting money into the build out of the project. He recalled that discussion of the Rockefeller Group was not long, but that the Mayor mentioned the Rockefeller Group’s construction on either the north end or the south end of the city could provide protection.

But Martin fails to mention lots of critically important facts that are related to development, not flood control, specifically: 1) the Gov.’s objective for the meeting, i.e. “economic development in Hoboken”; 2) the fact that the meeting was set up by the Gov. Office IGA; 3)  at the Gov.’s Office invitation, the Rockefeller Group attended the meeting; and 4) the fact that Martin directed a followup meeting on March 26 with DEP Deputy Cantor and the the DEP Assistant Commissioner for Land Use Lennon, the DEP group that reviews development projects like Rockefeller’s.

DCA Commissioner’s Constable’s account of this meeting differs significantly from Martin’s, but curiously, they both have trouble recalling what went on during the meeting and who attended, but they both distance themselves from Rockefeller and attribute anything related to Rockefeller as coming from Zimmer.

But those recollections are belied by Constable’s recollection of Martin’s “Birkenstock” smear (Constable):

Following Constable’s March 5, 2013 meeting with Mayor Zimmer and DEP, Martin subsequently joked about the irony of Mayor Zimmer’s talking about development – suggesting something along the lines of, in a joking manner, that Mayor Zimmer was part of the “Birkenstock crowd of folks typically not in favor of development.

If Martin is joking about Zimmer’s opposition to development, that obviously suggests that development – not flood control – was disussed.

And note that neither Martin nor Constable specifically recall or even mention that Rockefeller group was at that meeting. 

But, Rockefeller involvement at that meeting is confirmed by reading Renna (IGA) summary, which blows the entire Martin/Constable cover story:

Renna believed that Kelly asked Renna to set up the meeting between DEP Commissioner Martin and Community Affairs Commissioner Constable, and Mayor Zimmer. …

Prior to the meeting on March 5, Mowers sent an email to Renna asking if it was OK for the Rockefeller Group to be part of the meeting with Mayor Zimmer and the Commissioners.  Renna recalled that she did not know who the Rockefeller Group was, and the only reason she remembers the Rockefeller Group now is because that Renna went to Kelly to ask who the Rockefeller Group was. Renna recalled Kelly said that Lori Grifa represented the Rockefeller Group. Renna can not recall whether Kelly said whether it was or was not a problem for the Rockefeller Group to attend the meeting,  but Renna said that she would not have made the decision for the Rockefeller Group to participate in the March 5, 2013 meeting without clearing it through Kelly.

Rockefeller was there.

They were invited by Mowers/IGA (Stepien’s boy).

The Gov.’s objective for arranging this DEP meeting was to discuss “economic development in Hoboken”.

Dots connected.

Martin, Constable, and Renna’s attempts to downplay these facts strongly suggest a coverup.

In our next post, we explore the followup meetings at DEP on March 26 and May 9.  There is lots of information in those interview summaries that suggest that Rockefeller Development Group was provided not only undue access, but corrupt preferential regulatory treatment.

[Update: there are multiple interviews that show DEP role 0- here is Reiner recalling a March 11, 2013 meeting with Rockefeller Group, just days after the DEP March 5 meeting

The Rockefeller Group was worried about the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and their granting of permits, and someone from the Rockefeller Group mentioned that Mayor Zimmer had met with Commissioner Bob Martin from the DEP and Commissioner Martin painted a bleak picture. Reiner did not recall there being a specific request from the Rockefeller Group during this meeting.

Curiously, Mr. Brody, a lawyer and Deputy of GORR, does “not recall” Rockefeller’s attendance at this meeting. Curious indeed. There are numerous examples of selective recall with respect to Rockefeller Group.

Reiner confirms that Lori Grifa of Wolff & Samson and the Rockefeller Group had access and were plugged in in numerous places in the Gov.’s Office. He notes that such meetings with developers were “routine”, again downplaying the significance.

But this is the kicker that suggests the cover story:

Reiner remembered coming out of the meeting with the Rockefeller group thinking that the Mayor and the Rockefeller Group were working together and on the same page. 

The Mayor has publicly painted a very different picture, and so did the NY Times story. – end update]

end update]

In the meantime, hit the links to the documents below, from our friends at PEER:

banner

 

 

Press Release 

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Contact:  Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Leola Webb (202) 265-7337 

Christie Eco-Officials Fronted for favored Developer

Mastro Report Focus on DEP Role in Pressing Hoboken for Rockefeller Project     

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

Commissioner Robert Martin

Assistant Commissioner for Economic Growth Michele Siekerka

Chief Advisor to the Commissioner Raymond Cantor

Water Quality Division Director Michele Putnam

Assistant Director Division Water Quality Eugene Chebra

Supervising Environmental Specialist Linda Coles

Water Quality Specialist Matt Klewen

Director Office of Flood Hazard Risk Reduction David Rosenblatt

Look at IGA intimate role in roll-out of grant awards

Read Gov. Christie’s version of events

View all the interviews

Review how Christie politicized Hazard Mitigation grants

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

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. April 27th, 2014 at 03:35 | #1
  2. May 7th, 2014 at 12:55 | #2
  3. September 30th, 2014 at 22:35 | #3
  4. October 21st, 2014 at 22:56 | #4
  5. April 28th, 2015 at 20:45 | #5
  6. April 30th, 2015 at 15:12 | #6
  7. May 9th, 2015 at 08:25 | #7
  8. May 9th, 2015 at 18:48 | #8
  9. May 11th, 2015 at 12:05 | #9
  10. May 23rd, 2015 at 15:58 | #10
  11. May 25th, 2015 at 04:34 | #11
  12. June 7th, 2015 at 15:14 | #12
  13. June 9th, 2015 at 14:56 | #13
  14. June 24th, 2015 at 13:38 | #14
  15. June 25th, 2015 at 18:10 | #15
  16. June 27th, 2015 at 11:00 | #16
  17. February 23rd, 2018 at 14:35 | #17
  18. April 19th, 2018 at 17:54 | #18
  19. March 20th, 2019 at 13:04 | #19
  20. October 30th, 2019 at 15:19 | #20
  21. March 28th, 2020 at 12:31 | #21
  22. April 4th, 2020 at 19:14 | #22
You must be logged in to post a comment.