N.J. State Department official who caused a stir with Web site resigns

Saturday, June 07, 2003

BY JOSH MARGOLIN

Roger Rajesh Chugh, the assistant State Department commissioner whose personal Web site caused some embarrassment for the McGreevey administration last year, resigned yesterday, saying he wants to "pursue other opportunities."

"When I accepted this position, I made a commitment to serve for 12 months," Chugh wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Regena Thomas. "With the desire to fulfill my responsibilities to the people and the state, I have extended my time of service. However, I believe the time is now right for me to pursue other opportunities."

Chugh declined to comment yesterday. He has told people in the Statehouse that he would be heading to a position with a national Democratic organization, but that could not be confirmed yesterday.

Before taking his $85,000 job as the No.3 official in the State Department, Chugh, who was born in India and is a naturalized American citizen, was the Asian-outreach coordinator for Gov. James E. McGreevey's campaign.

Before that, Chugh, then living in Westchester County, N.Y., ran a series of failed businesses, including New York Image Printing Press Inc.

On Wednesday, new motions were filed in a lawsuit brought against Chugh by a Middlesex County physician who contends Chugh never made good on $124,000 in loans dating to November 1998.

The doctor, Chand Kewalramani of Edison, contends in the lawsuit that Chugh and his company "have not lived up to their end of the bargain, and have refused to repay these loans in a timely manner."

Kewalramani is also seeking attorney's costs and interest that could total $50,000 or more, according to his lawyer, Daniel Lindemann.

The lawsuit was filed in New Brunswick in February, and Lindemann filed a motion Wednesday seeking summary judgment in his client's favor.

A spokesman for McGreevey, Micah Rasmussen, referred questions about Chugh's departure to Thomas.

"Roger's tired," Thomas said, adding that Chugh has faced "very unfair" negative publicity.

"He does not want to put the governor's office nor the office of the secretary of state through this," Thomas said. "Roger said, 'I'm out of here.'"

Chugh caused a flap in the first months of the administration when he exaggerated his state government position on his personal Web site, which also displayed photos of himself with prominent politicians and personal-ad-style descriptions of his appearance and his fondness for Broadway shows and candlelight dinners. Chugh closed the Web site the day a Star-Ledger article about it appeared in March 2002.

Chugh, who has been close with McGreevey since the governor's days as mayor of Woodbridge, lost a key ally in the administration in January when Jamie Fox replaced Gary Taffet as the governor's chief of staff.

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