With calls for Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland’s resignation mounting on both sides of the aisle, state legislators are exploring their options concerning corruption allegations involving the three-term Republican governor.
Rowland has experienced a tumultuous month since he admitted Dec. 12 that he lied about accepting renovations on his vacation home in Litchfield, CT that were paid for by state employees and contractors. The Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House of Representatives met separately late last week to discuss possible courses of action, with both recommending the formation of a bipartisan committee to investigate whether the governor has committed impeachable offenses.
While Rowland has repeatedly apologized for accepting the free work and lying to the public about it, he has expressed a determination to serve out his term, even as polls show a majority of Connecticut residents support his resignation.
“I was wrong when I accepted gifts given to me by state employees and from friends who do business with the state. For this I accept full responsibility,” Rowland said last Wednesday in a six-minute speech televised statewide. “But worse, I was wrong in failing to truthfully address these issues. I lied and there are no excuses.”
Yet while Rowland acknowledged that his actions had “cast a long shadow” on his career as governor, he denied having provided any favors in exchange for gifts he received.
“As I face my problems, I ask no one to defend my actions. I ask no one for sympathy,” Rowland said. “What I do ask for is this chance to allow a fair and full federal investigation to progress and reach a conclusion. And the chance in the meantime to continue to work hard at my job and on the critical issues facing the state.”
Despite Rowland’s apology, several lawmakers, as well as the editorial boards of many of the state’s newspapers, have called for the governor’s resignation in recent days. State Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, a Democrat who represents New Haven and Hamden, said it was the “overwhelming sentiment” in the state Senate Democratic caucus last week that Rowland should resign.
Yet Looney said Rowland may be facing even more pressure to resign because of diminishing support within the governor’s own party. U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, one of three Republicans in the state’s Congressional delegation, called for Rowland’s resignation Saturday, and fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays has called a press conference today in Hartford to address the situation. Five of the 15 Republicans in the state Senate have publicly called for Rowland to step down, while the Republican caucuses in both houses of the state General Assembly have expressed a desire for a thorough investigation of Rowland’s behavior.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who is seriously considering a campaign for governor in 2006, said Rowland’s “pattern of behavior and attitude of entitlement” merited removal from office. DeStefano said he thought it was increasingly likely that Rowland would end his term early — whether voluntarily or not — but he said the debate over Rowland would make little difference in his plans concerning the governor’s race.
“While I’m sure this is painful for him, it isn’t about him, it’s about us … and whether we are going to tolerate this behavior,” DeStefano said.
If Rowland were to resign or be removed, he would be replaced by Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican from Brookfield.
Unlike many of his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, state Rep. William Dyson, whose district includes the Yale campus, said he did not think another investigation was necessary. Dyson said he thought legislators should wait to see the findings of separate probes by the federal government and the State Ethics Commission before considering how to proceed further.
“For us to be best able to act, we ought to wait until those investigations are concluded,” Dyson said. “Then we take a look at what has been revealed. And then we can decide how to act.”