A bipartisan committee entrusted with conducting an inquiry into alleged misconduct by Gov. John G. Rowland was named Thursday by leaders of the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Democratic State House Speaker Moira Lyons and Republican Minority Leader Robert Ward announced the names of the five Democrats and five Republicans who will serve on a Select Committee of Inquiry responsible for investigating the allegations surrounding the three-term Republican governor and recommending whether Rowland should be impeached. The committee, which will not become official until it is established at a special session of the House next Monday, will have a wide range of latitude in determining its standards for impeachment.
State Rep. Michael Lawlor, a visiting professor at Yale Law School who was one of the five Democrats named to the committee, said he thought the committee included a group of “level-headed” legislators who recognized the importance of the precedent they will set.
“Whatever you think about Governor Rowland, in the future, you only want this to happen in a truly extraordinary situation,” said Lawlor, who represents East Haven. “And by anybody’s account, this is an extraordinary situation.”
In addition to Lawlor, Democrats on the committee include its co-chairman John Wayne Fox of Stamford, James Abrams of Meriden, Jacqueline Cocco of Bridgeport and Wade Hyslop of New London. The Republicans on the committee will include co-chairman Arthur O’Neill of Southbury, as well as William Hamzy of Plymouth, Ruth Fahrbach of Windsor, Ray Kalinowski of Durham and Dolly Powers of Greenwich.
In the resolution that the House will consider in its special session on Monday, the committee will be asked to submit its recommendations by April 14, although Lyons said she would be willing to grant an extension. The only other time the House has created a committee to consider impeachment was to investigate a Hartford probate judge in 1984.
Although Rowland had expressed opposition to an impeachment inquiry before last week, he commended Lyons and Ward for their selection of the bipartisan committee Thursday.
“These individuals are all well-respected and are regarded as fair and open-minded members. I look forward to a fair and impartial process,” Rowland said in a written statement. “I hope that the full House of Representatives will unanimously endorse a resolution forming the committee during its special session next week.”
Rowland’s political future has been in jeopardy since he admitted on Dec. 12 to lying about having received free work on his vacation home in Litchfield, Conn. from state employees and contractors.
State Rep. Cameron Staples, a Democrat who represents New Haven and Hamden, said he and his colleagues were confident that the 10 representatives Lyons and Ward selected were well-suited to examine Rowland’s behavior.
“I think they are people who when they make a recommendation to the full house, their recommendation will carry a lot of weight because they are a balanced group with respect throughout the caucus,” Staples said.
The announcement of the committee’s membership came the day after a poll released by Quinnipiac University showed that 68 percent of Connecticut voters interviewed said Rowland should resign. In addition, 83 percent of voters said Rowland was not honest or trustworthy, while 56 percent said Rowland should be impeached if he did not resign.
Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said that as Connecticut residents have learned more about the allegations surrounding the three-term governor, they have become more likely to believe Rowland should be impeached.
“The more people focus on the scandal and the more news there is about it, the worse it is for Governor Rowland,” Schwartz said. “If you look at the folks who are paying the most attention for it, they are the strongest for his resignation.”
The poll also showed that Rowland’s support among Republicans was diminishing, with 48 percent saying the governor should resign and 74 percent responding that he was not honest or trustworthy.