HARTFORD, Conn. – State lawmakers voted unanimously to form a committee that will investigate the governor and recommend whether impeachment is warranted, with one lawmaker saying "we must get the truth so the public's faith in our government will be restored."
The House bipartisan committee will be the first in state history to investigate a sitting governor. The resolution creating the committee was adopted Monday in a special session, 140-0, with 11 members absent.
"We have a duty to our constituents and all the people of this great state," said House Majority Leader James Amann, a Democrat. "To us falls the responsibility of maintaining their faith in government."
Gov. John G. Rowland (search), a Republican, is under fire for accepting gifts and free work on his Litchfield vacation cottage from politically connected friends, state employees and a state contractor. He has said he never returned the favors and has apologized several times for lying about the gifts.
House Minority Leader Robert Ward (search), a Republican, said he recognized the issue was a "painful episode" for Rowland, who had once enjoyed high approval ratings and now hopes to finish his third term.
"The resolution is absolutely appropriate," Ward said. "There have been serious allegations about the governor's misconduct in office. The public has a right to know all the facts. We have to ask the questions, we have to get the facts, we must get the truth so the public's faith in our government will be restored."
After the vote, a hammer was tapped. Then there was silence.
Rowland said in a statement issued after the vote that he was pleased the process was moving forward.
"I have a great deal of respect for the members of the committee and I look forward to a fair inquiry," Rowland said. "As the committee begins its work I remain focused on my job. I look forward to addressing both houses in joint session next week as I deliver my State of the State address."
Democrats control both chambers: 95-56 in the House, 21-15 in the Senate. The resolution set an April 14 deadline for the panel's report, though that date is likely to be flexible.
The five Democrats and five Republicans on the panel were selected last week. Ward stressed the bipartisan nature of the vote by co-sponsoring the resolution that established the committee.