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Ethics review sought in McGreevey probe

Oiginally appeared in the Trenton Times Friday, August 22, 2003 TRENTON (AP) - The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants a state ethics investigator to review campaign fund-raising methods used by an agent of Gov. James E. McGreevey.

Sen. William L. Gormley, R-Margate, sent a letter yesterday to the attorney general requesting that Edward Neafsy handle any investigation by his department.

Rajesh "Roger" Chugh's actions as a fund-raiser for McGreevey, a Democrat, are under review by the attorney general. Investigators plan to talk with Middlesex County business owners who claim Chugh pressured them for contributions in the years leading up to the 2001 gubernatorial election.

As first assistant attorney general, Neafsy heads the Office of Governmental Integrity.

"It is essential that the expertise of someone of Neafsy's caliber be utilized to ensure that the inquiry is conducted in a thorough and credible fashion," Gormley wrote.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Peter C. Harvey did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Sen. Peter Inverso, R-Hamilton, seconded Gormley's call, saying residents "need to know whether their governor was aware that threats and promises of preferential treatment were made" to encourage campaign contributions.

Chugh resigned in June as an assistant commissioner in the Department of State.

McGreevey has said all donations were reviewed and that nothing improper took place during the campaign or in his tenure as mayor of Woodbridge.

The Record of Bergen County has reported that Chugh, 49, allegedly used threats and promises of political favors to raise money for McGreevey from 1997 until 2001, when McGreevey was mayor.

A phone number for Chugh, who now lives in Pelham, N.Y., could not immediately be found.

Democratic leaders and prominent members of the Asian-Indian community warned McGreevey about Chugh, but he appointed him to a consulting position with the Democratic State Committee and pronounced him "captain of the community" in the township's Little India section, The Record reported.

According to the newspaper, Chugh tried to extract contributions from business owners facing code violations, seeking zoning variances or simply calling town hall with questions.

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