Dems to Seek Conn. Governor's Impeachment

Some Democratic legislators said Saturday they will pursue impeachment proceedings against Gov. John G. Rowland (search) if he does not step aside, but a top aide said the Republican has no plans to leave office over his admission that a state contractor helped pay for work on his summer home.

Dean Pagani, Rowland's spokesman and chief of staff, said Rowland has not been accused of any wrongdoing and is cooperating fully with federal investigators.

"The governor has no intention of resigning," Pagani told reporters Saturday. "His only intention is to complete the current term he is serving and get the job done on behalf of the people of the state of Connecticut, as he has for the last nine years."

The three-term governor admitted Friday that friends, contractors and subcontractors paid for work on his summer home ranging from gutters to a hot tub. Those contributing included the Tomasso Group (search) — a major state contractor — and a former co-chief of staff under investigation in a federal corruption probe.

The written statement came 10 days after Rowland insisted that he alone paid for the improvements on the house.

Under state ethics laws, it is illegal for the governor to take any gifts worth more than $10 from people doing or seeking to do business with the governor's office. The Tomasso Group has many contracts with the state but none with the governor's office.

State Democratic Party chairman George Jepsen on Saturday called on Rowland to temporarily step aside during the ongoing federal corruption investigation. Five Democratic state lawmakers stood behind Jepsen and said they will seek Rowland's impeachment if he does not step down.

Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature, but the lawmakers who spoke are not among the leadership of the House and Senate.

"The man is a disgrace to the state of Connecticut," said state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. "There is nothing worse than a liar."

Jepsen noted that Rowland was among the first to call for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim to resign when Bridgeport's corruption scandal came to light. Ganim was eventually convicted of corruption charges.

"The governor said then that the issue was not the mayor's guilt or innocence, but rather his difficulty in leading the city while fighting criminal charges," Jepsen said.

Rowland does not face criminal charges.

Newspapers in Manchester, New London and New Britain called for Rowland's resignation Saturday, but administration officials are hoping the governor's apology and efforts to come clean will help him weather the criticism.

"The Democratic Party chairman is wrong," Republican Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a statement. "I support the governor. And I urge the residents of Connecticut to do the same. The governor has an agenda for the next three years that he intends to see through and I will work with him to accomplish those goals."

Senate Minority Leader Pro Tem William Aniskovich, R-Branford, said the calls for Rowland's resignation are driven by politics.

"At a minimum, it's premature," Aniskovich said. "At another level, it's kind of kicking a guy when he's down. I think it's important to let the process play out."

Pagani said the governor has turned over thousands of pages of documents to federal investigators involved in a corruption probe that began last year, when his former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty to accepting cash and gold in return for steering state contracts. The Tomasso Group was also subpoenaed as part of a related corruption investigation.

Rowland also voluntarily turned over documents pertaining to renovations at his one-story, lakeside cottage, Pagani said.

"There is no cloud hanging over Governor Rowland," Pagani said.

Rowland said Friday that while he paid for more than $30,000 in improvements to the cottage in Litchfield, friends, contractors and subcontractors paid for some of the work. He said none of them received any benefit from the state in exchange.

Alibozek and Rowland's former co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef — who remains under investigation — paid for heating improvements to Rowland's cottage.

Earlier this year, the governor paid nearly $9,000 to settle an ethics probe over his use of vacation homes owned by state contractors and also settled an Elections Enforcement Commission complaint, paying $6,000 to cover personal charges he made to a state GOP credit card.

In 1997, he paid a $2,000 Ethics Commission penalty for accepting undervalued concert tickets. That was the first ethics fine levied against a sitting Connecticut governor.