Finance

State Probe Confirms Errors in Sandy Aid

April 18, 2014

The head of a state committee responsible for doling out $25 million in Sandy energy grants has told the legal team hired by the Christie administration for the internal review of the Bridgegate scandal that his group’s original decisions were seriously flawed due to “data entry errors.”

The revelation backs up the findings of an NJ Spotlight investigation but also indicates that problems may have been even deeper and wide-ranging than was originally reported.

The disclosure comes in new documents released by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm conducting an investigation into the actions of the governor’s office in the Bridgegate scandal. As part of the investigation, the legal team reviewed claims that Hoboken had been shortchanged Sandy aid for political reasons. Lawyers were told that the contractor the state hired to help sort through grant applications had mishandled the process and that many of the awards previously announced will have to be modified as a result.

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program’s Energy Allocation Initiative was created to provide funding for generators and other backup energy solutions in municipalities affected by Sandy and previous severe storms.

It came under scrutiny in January, after Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer went public with concerns that her city should have gotten more through the program than the $142,080 it was awarded. She charged that Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and several other administration officials had threatened withholding aid if she didn’t support a real estate redevelopment project favored by an ally of the governor.

While not finding clear evidence that threats were issued, an NJ Spotlight investigation last month did discover numerous errors in the state’s handling of the grant program.

A detailed analysis found that Hoboken was shortchanged about $700,000 and that places like Belmar and Atlantic City – which experienced severe flooding in some neighborhoods – applied for grant money but didn’t receive any funding at all.

Meanwhile, dozens of small towns that had comparatively little flooding history received much more than they should have, according to the state’s own ranking criteria.

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