Rowland Resigns as Connecticut Governor

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland (search) announced his resignation Monday following a probe into corruption charges and possible impeachment charges by the state House.

Rowland did not discuss his guilt or innocence, but said he tried to do what was right by the people of his state. He will be stepping down as of noon, July 1.

"I acknowledge that my poor judgment has brought us here," Rowland said, standing on the back lawn of the governor's residence in Hartford. His wife Patty stood beside him.

"I can only hope that when all is said and done, when dust settles and time casts light back on our time in office, that the people will see that we tried to give something back as well," he said.

Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell (search), a Republican, will serve as governor for the final two years of Rowland's term. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan (search), D-West Hartford, will be elevated to lieutenant governor.

After an easy re-election in 2002, Rowland was on track to become Connecticut's longest-serving governor since colonial times. He was in this third term when charges arose last year that he got discounts on home renovations from businesses that later won lucrative state contracts. He also was accused of accepting gifts such as Cuban cigars, French champagne and a Ford Mustang convertible.

In December, after first denying it, Rowland, 47, admitted that friends, employees and some state contractors had paid for renovations on his vacation home in Litchfield, Conn. He denied he returned the favors with state business deals.

The state House established a committee to ponder whether to bring impeachment charges against Rowland. Last Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court (search) ruled that the governor could be compelled to testify at the impeachment hearings. The hearings were supposed to wrap up on Tuesday. The Democratic House speaker said Rowland's decision to quit was the right one.

"The governor has chosen late in this journey to take the honorable road. John Rowland made many bad choices that led us to today's resignation," said House Speaker Moira Lyons (search), D-Stamford. "I am sad that such a gifted and talented leader chose a path of deception and ethical malaise for so long."

Lyons said she would not ask the committee to make a recommendation on impeachment.

"What's the point of impeaching someone who's no longer in office?" she said.

Rep. Arthur O'Neill, R-Southbury, the inquiry committee's Republican co-chairman, said he hadn't decided whether to recommend impeachment. He called Rowland's resignation a sad ending to a brilliant political career.

"It certainly takes an enormous weight off the shoulders of the committee and of the House of Representatives and for that matter the whole legislature," O'Neill said. "In that regard, I believe the governor is doing a service to the people of Connecticut by eliminating that process."

Even if the impeachment hearings are nullified by Rowland's resignation, he is still in the midst of a federal corruption probe.

Rowland, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association (search), was considered a rising star when he was elected the nation's youngest governor in 1994 at age 37.

He told residents he remained proud of his accomplishments, especially his efforts to bring "new life" to Connecticut's cities.

"I hope there have been times when I made you all proud, or made you all smile or at least piqued your interest in this wonderful institution we call government," Rowland said.

Rowland had previously served three terms in Congress, starting at age 27, and two terms before that in the state House. When he first took office, Rowland made $78,000 a year, was paying alimony and supporting a large family — three children from his first marriage and a second wife with two children.

Rowland, who grew up in working-class Waterbury, and his wife bought the Litchfield cottage in 1997. Much of Rowland's daily life is paid for by the state. Aside from the cottage Rowland has no property, according to people familiar with the governor's finances.

Fox News' Molly Henneberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.