HARTFORD, Conn. – Democratic leaders say it's premature to talk of impeaching Republican Gov. John G. Rowland (search) over revelations that friends and a politically connected contractor paid for work on his summer cottage, despite rank-and-file calls for such action.
"Impeachment (search) is a very serious step and I don't think anyone is looking at that step seriously right now," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan said Monday.
Sullivan spoke after the top four legislative leaders from both parties met privately Monday to discuss Rowland's situation.
"This is a very, very grave moment for the state of Connecticut," said Sullivan, who would become lieutenant governor if Rowland left office. "When the capacity of a governor has been called into question, the veracity of a governor has been an issue before us, we have to proceed a day at a time."
Rowland, a third-term Republican, acknowledged Friday that friends and a politically connected contractor paid for some improvements on his summer cottage, despite his earlier insistence that he paid for all the work himself.
Rowland, who has not been charged with any crimes, has apologized for his misstatements and voluntarily turned over records of the renovations to the U.S. attorney's office.
Some of those friends and the contractor, the Tomasso Group (search) of New Britain, a major state contractor, are under scrutiny by federal authorities investigating bid-rigging (search). Rowland's 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.
The state attorney general's office is also looking into the Rowland administration, but officials gave no details.
Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca, a Republican, said after Monday's meeting that there are no plans for a meeting between Rowland and legislative leaders, and said lawmakers should not rush into action.
"We should just sit and wait. There's an investigation going on," DeLuca said.
But House Majority Leader James Amann said he believes Democrats and Republicans need to sit down with Rowland and discuss the situation.
"We should be having a conversation about resignation," said Amann, who stressed that top lawmakers don't plan to call on Rowland to step down.
Rowland was elected to a third term last year. Connecticut has no term limits for governors.
State Democratic Party chairman George Jepsen on Saturday called on Rowland to temporarily step aside during an investigation. Five Democratic state lawmakers said they would seek Rowland's impeachment if he does not step down. At least three newspapers have called on Rowland to resign.
On Monday, the elections watchdog group Common Cause (search) of Connecticut also called for Rowland's resignation.
Dean Pagani, the governor's spokesman and chief of staff, said Rowland is going about his daily routine, meeting with commissioners and working on budget-related issues.
"He knows that he's made a mistake. He's apologized for it. He's tried to the best of his abilities to set the record straight," Pagani said. "He appreciates the fact the leadership of the legislature is waiting to see how things go."