Rowland Will Resign

By Mark Pazniokas, Lynne Tuohy, and Jon Lender, The Hartford Courant, 21 June 2004

Gov. John G. Rowland intends to announce his resignation tonight at 6 in a televised speech to the state, nine days before the deadline for the House impeachment committee to recommend if he should be removed from office.

Rowland, 47, the target of a federal criminal investigation and Connecticut's first gubernatorial impeachment inquiry, made his decision Saturday after consulting with his lawyers, sources said.

“We decided there were no options left. [Resignation] was an option that had been on the plate for a long period of time, and I think the [Supreme Court] decision Friday sealed it,” one adviser said today.

The state Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Friday, upheld the validity of the House impeachment committee's subpoena for Rowland's testimony, leaving the governor with no realistic options other than defying the committee.

As the target of a federal investigation, Rowland could not afford to testify, possibly jeopardizing his defense in a criminal case. Avoiding testimony by asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination would have been a political defeat.

Sources close to Rowland said they have no idea how the resignation will factor into the ongoing grand jury investigation into corruption in his administration. Rowland's resignation is not part of any deal with federal prosecutors, who have told other targets of their investigation that indictments are possible this summer.

Rowland, a three-term Republican governor, was described as composed as he discussed his limited options. His wife, Patricia, listened to at least some of the discussions.

Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell was notified this morning of his decision, as aides were asking the television stations for time for Rowland to address the state. WTNH, Channel 8, reported the story first.

Rowland's resignation will take effect July 1, sources said. Rowland will not immediately vacate the Executive Residence. He is said to be coordinating the move with Rell.

Ross Garber, the counsel to the governor's office, and William F. Dow III, his personal lawyer, said they had no comment about an abrupt end to the state's impeachment drama.

Impeachment hearings were to resume today. In interviews with The Courant Friday, committee members indicated that, at a minimum, they had concluded the governor was guilty of repeated ethical violations.

Evidence presented during the past two weeks in televised hearings had established what newspapers had reported: Rowland had accepted a variety of favors from state contractors and close aides in violation of state ethics laws.

In the case of businessman Robert V. Matthews, Rowland had accepted a total of more than $50,000 in inflated rental payments and an above-market purchase price on the governor's Washington condominium.

At the time, Matthews was seeking state economic aid for several ventures.

Some defense lawyers had doubted Rowland would resign, saying it would enhance his bargaining position with federal prosecutors were he to remain in office.

His advisers refused to speculate how the federal authorities would react.

On the one hand, one said, “they’ve gotten their scalp, and they don’t need anything else. On the other, he's more vulnerable than ever.”

By resigning, Rowland loses the benefits of having staff to help meet grand jury subpoenas for documents, and loses the services of Garber, who represents the office of the governor and has mounted vigorous challenges to subpoenas aimed at the office.

“If you look at that side [pthe loss of resources],” said one adviser, “if you’re out for blood, now is the time to get him.”

However, state officials have said he will remain eligible for retirement benefits, including a pension and health insurance.

First elected governor in 1994, Rowland had previously served three terms in Congress and two in the state House. A native of Waterbury, he would have become the longest-serving governor in modern state history if he had completed his term.

Rowland was once the nation's youngest governor—he was 37 in 1994—and considered a rising star in the GOP. He is a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association and was rumored to be considered for several positions in the Bush administration.

When he first took office, Rowland made $78,000 a year, was paying alimony and supporting a large family—three children from his first marriage and a second wife with two children—when his much wealthier friends and state contractors began to give him a taste of the finer things in life.

They fixed up his cottage in bucolic Litchfield, where Connecticut's movers and shakers summer, complete with a hot tub given to him by a state employee. The governor got thousands of dollars in Cuban cigars and French champagne, a vintage Ford Mustang convertible and free or discounted vacations at the estates of his friends—contractors who won substantial business from the state.

But the high life started to crumble in 2003. That's when Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty in March to federal charges he steered state business to certain contractors in exchange for gold and cash.

That plea—and the governor's subsequent acknowledgment that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed stacks of documents relating to several major projects and a politically connected contractor—set the stage for a spring and summer of embarrassing revelations about discounted vacations he had taken at homes owned by people doing business with the state.

In mid-December, Rowland admitted he had lied about who paid for improvements to a one-story, lakeside cottage he purchased in 1997. Asked Dec. 2 about who paid for the work, Rowland insisted he and his wife, Patricia, had taken out several loans to cover the bills.

Ten days later he issued a statement apologizing to the Capitol press corps and admitting friends, employees and some state contractors—including the Tomassos—had paid for renovations, including a new heating system, a hot tub, work on the kitchen, ceiling and deck. is Copyright © 2004 by The Hartford Courant