Ramchal pleads guilty; will resign as councilman

Councilman Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal pleaded guilty Thursday to charges arising from a 2015 drunken driving arrest. As part of a plea deal to avoid jail time, he will resign his council seat representing Ward B.
Ramchal pleaded guilty to drunken driving, assault by auto, and theft by deception. The last charge resulted from allegations that he had altered travel records while employed at the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA).
Assistant Prosecutor Karyn Darish is expected to ask the court to sentence Ramchal to probation when sentenced on July 15. This would also come with the caveat that he cannot hold an elected or appointed government office in New Jersey.
Ramchal did not respond to requests for comment.
The investigation into Ramchal came after he was involved in an accident involving his county vehicle on March 14, 2015, for which he was later charged with assault. The crash resulted in bodily injury to a passenger in the vehicle that was struck.
Police who administered an alcohol test after the crash alleged that Ramchal was driving a city vehicle while intoxicated. Ramchal was later fired from the HCIA based on an investigation into travel records which indicated that he was allegedly not working in locations when his work log said he was.
Ramchal was elected to the council in 2013 as a running mate of Mayor Steven Fulop. Prior to that, Ramchal served as a council aide to former Councilman David Donnelly, and as an assistant to Freeholder Bill O’Dea.
The City Council will have to nominate a candidate to fill Ramchal’s unexpired term.

A long hard road

Ramchal ran a red light at West Side and Communipaw avenues on March 14, 2015 and struck a taxi. The taxi struck a vehicle being driven by an off duty New York police officer.
Jersey City police said that Ramchal’s blood-alcohol was nearly double the legal limit for intoxication. The incident report said he was driving a vehicle registered to the Jersey City Incinerator Authority, an agency where he served as an unpaid commissioner. The report said had used emergency lights as he went through the intersection.
As result of injuries to a passenger in the taxi, Ramchal was charged with assault by auto.
Ramchal served as an enforcement officer for the HCIA until he was fired in June 2015. He claimed at the time that he had used his personal vehicle because the county vehicle was not operating properly.
The HCIA began its investigation of Ramchal in April 2015, alleging that GPS records for his city-issued vehicle did not match the work locations Ramchal listed on his timesheets. His job involved monitoring trash removal trucks in Hudson County municipalities to make sure their documents were up to date. Ramchal’s salary at time of the termination was $49,923.
In the weeks leading up to his plea, Ramchal was agitated, although apparently confided in none of his colleagues.
“I’m all right,” he told The Jersey City Reporter when asked about his frame of mind, although he was clearly preoccupied, even when he sat at the meetings. He was not present for meetings and caucuses in May, and left the last meeting in April early.
Ramchal, who represented Ward B on the west side of Jersey City, is an extremely popular councilman, attending nearly all civic events. He is credited with lobbying for new parks and new developments, including a sorely needed new supermarket slated to open later this year on West Side Avenue.
Ramchal has tended to avoid comments in the past about these charges, but on one occasion told The Jersey City Reporter, “You have to live with your mistakes.”
Ramchal also said he had hoped to avoid resigning his council seat, and more than once said it was one of the things he was most proud of.
“I love serving the people,” he said.

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