SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Facing calls to resign over revelations that friends and a politically connected contractor paid for work on his summer cottage, Gov. John G. Rowland (search) said he can still head the state.
"In public life you have to deal with these types of issues," the Republican governor said Sunday. "Now I have to govern. I have a busy week, lots of work to do."
Rowland, making his first public appearance since admitting Friday that he did not pay for the work himself, said his service to the state speaks for itself.
Asked whether he planned to resign, the three-term governor replied: "We're doing our job. We've laid everything out. We've made an apology. Everything has to be looked at in perspective in terms of what I've done in the last nine years."
Rowland was making an unannounced appearance at a holiday party for family members of deployed Connecticut National Guard soldiers.
Rowland admitted that work on the cottage was paid for by friends, contractors and subcontractors, including the Tomasso Group — a major state contractor — and a former deputy chief of staff who was convicted in a federal corruption probe. His admission came 10 days after he insisted that he alone paid for the improvements to the cottage.
State ethics laws bar the governor from accepting gifts of more than $10 from anyone who does business with his office.
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 and he did not say how much the work done was worth.
The former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges that he took cash and gold in exchange for steering state contracts to certain companies. Alibozek and Rowland's former co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef — who remains under investigation — paid for heating improvements to Rowland's cottage.
State Democratic Party chairman George Jepsen on Saturday called on Rowland to temporarily step aside during an ongoing federal corruption investigation into the Rowland administration. Five Democratic state lawmakers said they will seek Rowland's impeachment if he does not step down.
"The man is a disgrace to the state of Connecticut," said state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. "There is nothing worse than a liar."
At least three newspapers have called on Rowland to resign.
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.