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Pascrell Wants Investigation Into Sandy Relief Aid

1-30-14

By Desirée Taylor
Senior Correspondent

With no warning, the Christie administration abruptly fired HGI — the company charged with doling out Sandy aid. That raised questions, says Congressman Bill Pascrell, and he wants answers.

“For us to find out by accident that the state has cut off a relationship with a contracting company, to find it out quite by accident is to me a terrible red flag. So I want an investigation, Frank Pallone wants an investigation, of the entire process — where the money was spent, how did it get spent, any quid pro quos,” Pascrell said.

With millions in Sandy aid still undistributed, the state ended HGI’s $68 million contract last month. Critics noted HGI was originally hired after an affiliated law firm donated $25,000 to the RGA, the Republican Governors Association, now chaired by Chris Christie — that, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“I want to know how money is being spent and why HUD hasn’t said anything until now,” Pascrell said.

The Christie administration refused to say why it fired HGI or why it’s asked for a six-month extension of federal temporary housing funds, to help displaced Sandy victims. HGI didn’t comment.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, meanwhile, expressed confidence that Sandy aid distribution received proper oversight.

“Could it be going faster? Yes. Are we doing everything we can to cut red tape? Absolutely. But I am confident we’re monitoring this money closely,” Donovan said.

More conflict of interest concerns surfaced when Susana Guerrero — a lawyer with close ties to Christie — was named head of New Jersey’s ethics commission, which investigates complaints about aid distribution. She also didn’t return our calls.

All that — on top of accusations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Sandy aid until she approved a development project.

“I don’t think she has any reason to lie. If what she said is true, I think we are not simply talking about politics here, we are talking derelict of duty,” Pascrell said.

The administration denies Zimmer’s allegations.

Critics are calling for more transparency.