Gov. Chris Christie fired another salvo Wednesday in his longstanding war of words with the mayor of Atlantic City.
Christie renewed his attacks on Mayor Lorenzo Langford, saying the city has one of the nation's worst-run, “most God-awful, wasteful governments in America.”
Christie's remarks came during a town hall meeting in Morris County, where he said Atlantic City, which is under state financial oversight, has “a mayor who has no idea what he's doing.”
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Christie, a Republican, previously attacked the Democratic mayor over his handling of Superstorm Sandy. Christie said the mayor erred by allowing people to shelter on the barrier island ahead of the storm rather than making them evacuate. After days of back-and-forth between the two, Langford said he wanted to confront Christie “mano a mano.”
In a written response to Christie's remarks Wednesday, Langford accused Christie of being a hypocrite, bringing up a two-year-old controversy involving the governor's use of a state police helicopter.
“Wasn't it he who was flying around in a state police helicopter attending his son's baseball games in Bergen County on the taxpayers' dime?” wrote Langford, who this week announced he will seek a third term.
Christie later agreed to reimburse the state the cost of the trips.
The governor turned to the subject of Atlantic City after discussing his stymied efforts to prohibit future public hires in New Jersey from cashing out their unused sick time when they retire.
He said it was “crazy” that 15 city employees were retiring with a total of $2.2 million in payouts for unused sick and vacation time, citing a report in The Press of Atlantic City. Two deputy fire chiefs for the city, which is currently phasing in limits on cashouts, each received payouts of more than $280,000, the newspaper reported.
In his budget address Tuesday the governor again called on the Legislature to end the practice of allowing cashouts of unused sick time, noting municipal governments in New Jersey have nearly $1 billion in liability for sick and vacation leave. Democrats want to cap sick payouts at $7,500.
Christie also attacked Langford over a raise approved last year by the city council.
“This guy just voted himself a $16,000 raise,” Christie said. “America is the greatest country in the world if that can happen, I tell ya. Opportunity for everybody.”
In his statement, Langford pointed out that Christie's administration has oversight of the city and wondered if the governor's subordinates are “incompetent, or is he just full of baloney?”
“This from a governor who presides over the state that has the highest property taxes, as well as the highest auto insurance rates in the nation, and hasn't put forth a viable plan to eradicate this distinction,” Langford wrote.
The mayor also asked, “wasn't it his (Christie's) administration that dropped the ball on receiving $400 million in educational funding from the federal government? $400 million!!!”
In 2010, an error on a federal education grant application by the state was blamed for the loss of $400 million. Christie placed responsibility on then-Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, who was fired amid the scandal; Schundler said the mistake was made by the governor's office.