Mirroring sentiment across the state, public officials in New Haven are expressing little support for embattled Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.
Seven of the eight New Haven representatives to the General Assembly said this week that they supported the formation of a committee to investigate charges of corruption involving the three-term governor. Rowland admitted on Dec. 12 that he lied about free work he accepted from state employees and contractors on his vacation home in Litchfield, Conn.
“I think there is a crisis of confidence in him,” State Sen. Toni Harp said. “I believe that his resignation would be a noble gesture that would save us from having to go through a grueling experience.”
New Haven’s two state senators, Harp and Martin Looney, as well as State Representatives Toni Walker, Patricia Dillon, Juan Candelaria, Robert Megna and Cameron Staples, said they supported the creation of a bipartisan committee that could eventually lead to impeachment proceedings against Rowland. State Rep. William Dyson said he opposed adding an additional investigation to ongoing probes by the federal government and the State Ethics Commission.
Six members of the New Haven delegation — Harp, Looney, Walker, Megna, Candelaria and Staples — also said they believed Rowland should resign, as has New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., a potential candidate for governor.
Yet, while New Haven’s representatives to the General Assembly– all Democrats — were never supporters of the Rowland administration, their calls for Rowland’s resignation come as even the governor’s base of support in Hartford appears to be diminishing. Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays became the second Congressional Republican to ask for Rowland’s resignation, while a poll released by the University of Connecticut showed that 63 percent of state residents believe the governor should step down.
In addition, six Republican state senators called upon Rowland to resign — raising the number of members of the 15-person Republican caucus in the Senate who had publicly asked the governor to step down to 11.
But with little indication that Rowland is planning to leave office voluntarily, New Haven’s representatives to Hartford said the General Assembly was considering the details of a proposed committee to investigate Rowland’s actions. While Staples said the exact scope, size and membership of the committee were still unclear, he said the consensus in both parties was that the panel should be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, even though the Democrats hold a sizable majority in both houses of the General Assembly.
“It’s telling that everyone recognizes the value of a bipartisan committee, and I think it’s a good sign,” Staples said.
Dillon said she saw little use in calling for Rowland’s resignation, but she said she supported an investigation that could lead to impeachment if it were bipartisan and conducted with a “conservative scope.”
“My concern is that whatever happens is going to set a standard,” Dillon said.
Although Connecticut has never impeached a governor, the General Assembly created a bipartisan committee in 1983 to explore the possible impeachment of Hartford Probate Judge James Kinsella, who resigned before proceedings began in the House. Under the state constitution, a state official can be impeached by a simple majority vote in the House, after which he would be put on trial before the State Senate. Two-thirds of state senators would need to vote for his conviction for him to be permanently removed from office.