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Hoboken, NJ, to vote on letting lawyer testify in Christie probes

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Hoboken, New Jersey, will decide on Wednesday whether to let a city attorney cooperate with investigators probing claims of political intimidation by aides to Republican Governor Chris Christie, a likely White House contender.

The Hoboken City Council will vote on a resolution allowing the attorney to disclose his private conversations with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who accuses the Christie administration of withholding federal storm recovery money to pressure her.

Zimmer, a Democrat, alleges she was threatened by three top Christie aides who told her Hoboken would not get promised money to clean up from 2012's Superstorm Sandy unless she backed a development project favored by the governor.

Zimmer's accusations surfaced in January as Christie's office became the focus of parallel state and federal probes into possibly politically motivated lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge, which links New Jersey and New York City.

Accusations that members of Christie's inner circle organized the lane closures to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, at the western end of the bridge, have damaged the moderate Republican's popularity as he lays groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential bid.

Zimmer, a Democrat, claims that in 2103 she was approached by three members of Christie's administration, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who told her Sandy recovery money would not be released unless she approved a massive development plan.

Zimmer said Guadagno told her, "I know it's not right, these things should not be connected, but they are."

Guadagno has denied the allegations.

Zimmer said she discussed the alleged threats with Hoboken attorney Joseph Maraziti. The resolution being considered Wednesday would allow him to waive his attorney-client privilege and cooperate with both the federal and state investigations.

Christie has adamantly denied any knowledge of the bridge traffic scheme and has called Zimmer's claims false.

Last week, a private law firm hired by Christie to investigate both the lane closures and the claims made by Zimmer cleared the governor of any wrongdoing.

Zimmer called the findings "sadly predictable" and a "one-sided whitewash."

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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