Connecticut Governor Resigns
Rowland Was Facing Impeachment Move
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2004; Page A01
HARTFORD, Conn., June 21 -- Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland (R) announced his resignation Monday, as his three-term rule collapsed after revelations that he had accepted tens of thousands of dollars of gifts from state contractors and top aides.
In a five-minute resignation speech, Rowland declined to say why he was stepping down. But the reasons were clear. He faced impeachment proceedings in the legislature, he is under federal investigation and on Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that he must testify before a state House committee investigating the graft allegations.
"Tonight is both a beginning and an end for me," said Rowland, who stood alongside his wife, Patty, on a garden patio outside the governor's residence. "Even in these difficult times, I realize how fortunate and blessed I truly am."
Rowland, 47, was the youngest mayor and congressman in the history of the state, and an unstoppable political force for much of his three terms as governor. Possessed of considerable political skills and husky good looks, the governor played a prominent role in the National Governors Association. He was often mentioned as a potential Cabinet member were President Bush to win a second term.
But for the past six months, Connecticut has been consumed by revelations about his acceptance of gifts, and his popularity eroded steadily. Rowland allowed major state contractors and gubernatorial aides to foot the bill for a new $14,000 kitchen, a cathedral ceiling and a $3,600 hot tub at his lakeside summer cottage in Litchfield County. These same friends and associates gave him thousands of dollars' worth of champagne, Cuban cigars and a Mustang convertible.
The House committee has been holding hearings in which a parade of witnesses over the past two weeks testified about the gifts. Other disclosures included word that a friend of Rowland's, a businessman with state contracts, had bought the governor's Washington condominium at an inflated price.
State leaders in both political parties acknowledged that a consensus was building for an impeachment vote. Rowland would have faced an impeachment trial in a state Senate in which a majority of lawmakers already had called for his resignation.
He said he will formally step down July 1. Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) will take Rowland's place, serving out a term that will end in January 2007.
Rowland's resignation will not put an end to his personal ordeal, as federal prosecutors continue their investigation. Had he appeared before the House impeachment committee, Rowland's testimony could have been used against him.
The governor's former deputy chief of staff has been sent to prison after pleading guilty to steering state contracts in exchange for gold coins, which the aide buried in his garden. And prosecutors reportedly have targeted an array of former officials and state contractors.
State legislative leaders said Monday that Rowland made the right decision to step down but took much too long. "It is probably inappropriate that he waited so long," House Speaker Moira Lyons (D) said.
Senate Minority Leader Louis C. DeLuca (R) said Rowland did a fine job but stumbled a bit. "Unfortunately, it ends like this, but he did a good job," DeLuca said. "Those people who are gloating, they haven't accepted that he got elected."
But Democrat Bill Curry, who lost to Rowland in the last election, implicated not just the governor but also Connecticut's political culture, in which ethical lapses are often shrugged off. Curry noted that the revelations about Rowland's misconduct took root not in the legislature policing state government but in the federal prosecutor's office and the media.
"For the last decade, we endured a government-supported crime wave," Curry said. "We were the Constitution State, and then we woke up one day and we were Louisiana with foliage."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, with his wife, Patty, beside him, announces his resignation from office at the governor's mansion in Hartford.
(Bob Child -- AP)
Biographical Information on John G. Rowland|
at 10:43 AM
NAME: John G. Rowland.
AGE-BIRTH DATE: 47. May 24, 1957.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in business administration, Villanova University.
EXPERIENCE: Worked as insurance agent in family firm until 1984. Served in the state House 1981-1984. Served in U.S. House from 1985-1990. He lost the 1990 race for governor but won the 1994 race and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002.
FAMILY: Wife, Patricia. He has three children from his first marriage and shares custody of his second wife's two children.
QUOTE: "People say, 'Oh, he's done things wrong. He's taken gifts.' OK, let's assume half of the stuff is true. I think the more important point is, the reason I don't resign is I haven't compromised this office. No one has even said I've compromised this office. I've not done anything inappropriate for anybody."