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
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 summary re: Feb. 25, 2013 email from Renna) and set up by the Gov.’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) (see Renna and Constable summaries). The Rockefeller Development Group was invited by IGA (Renna).
- The March 5 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) the Gov.’s Office invitation and attendance of the Rockefeller Group; 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, 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. The Gov.’s objective for arranging this meeting was “economic development in Hoboken”.
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.
In the meantime, hit the links to the documents below, from our friends at PEER:
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
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