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NJ State Official Made False Claims on Web Site: Report  


India West
April, 4 2002

By VARUN ARORA
India-West Staff Reporter
A high-ranking New Jersey State Department official pulled down his personal Web site Mar. 28 after it was revealed that the site made false claims about the $85,000 per-year-job Gov. James E. McGreevey created for him, said a Star-Ledger report.

The site had reported that Assistant Commissioner Rajesh 'Roger' Chugh, the No. 3 official in the department, was the "First Assistant Secretary of the State of New Jersey," and the first Asian-American to hold the "constitutionally mandated office."

The position does not exist. The position of assistant secretary of state, which is held by Lizette Delgado, is not a constitutional office. "This has never been Roger Chugh's office or position," a spokesperson at Delgado's office informed India-West. Chugh himself was unavailable for comment and his cell phone has been disconnected.

Reached at his office earlier by the Star-Ledger, Chugh offered this explanation for some of the inaccuracies: "There were some spelling mistakes that were made, so we are correcting them."

"Like you need to change your clothes every day, that site needs to get changed," said Chugh, who served as McGreevey's liaison to the state's Indian American community during the campaign and now handles ethnic programs for the state. "When the Web site comes up you will read it, you will see."

Chugh tried to clarify the confusion over the job titles: "That's what I was going to be," he said, "but because of some technicalities I am assistant commissioner," Chugh told the Star-Ledger.

Chugh's initial site - first reported in the Star-Ledger - contained photos of him with McGreevey and a host of other politicians, including former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. George Pataki, similar to ones that have run in various Indian American publications, including India-West.

The site resembled a personal ad and also spoke about Chugh's "light complexion, brown eyes and dark hair," and quoted him as saying he enjoyed "Broadway shows, candle-lit dinners, listening to music and going to basketball games."

Officials at the State Department denied that Secretary of State Regena Thomas or any other administration official urged him to take the Web site down.

Meanwhile, Republicans distributed news clippings from Indian newspapers that had quoted Chugh making other false claims about his job duties. Chugh, who declined to discuss his job to the Star-Ledger, said he was misquoted.

According to the Deccan Herald of Bangalore, Chugh said McGreevey made him the state's point man on relations with the Indian government.

"New Jersey can offer lots of technology transfer, pollution control expertise and garbage management methods to Indian states if they approach us. I will make sure all such helps are extended to whoever is interested," Chugh was reported to have said.

Another Indian newspaper claimed, "He (Chugh) will handle a $1.8 billion budget and have 2,000 people working under him."

Kinney, the State Department spokesman, told the Star-Ledger Chugh has no such responsibilities. His position deals primarily with ethnic outreach in New Jersey and was created when McGreevey reorganized the department, Kinney said. He said Chugh has several divisions under his control, including the Asian and Pacific American Advisory Council, the New Jersey Commission on American-Indian Affairs and the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

Chugh graduated from Delhi's Atma Ram Santam Dharam College, where he became the college union general secretary in the early seventies. He counts Congress Party leaders Lalit Maken, Priyaranjan Das Munshi and Ambika Soni as among his friends and peers. He has been active in the Indian American community ever since his emigration to the U.S. in the 1970s.

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