HARTFORD, Conn. – After two weeks of historic impeachment hearings that have painted an unflattering portrait of Gov. John G. Rowland (search), many are wondering if the governor himself will appear to defend himself.
The hearings were to resume Monday morning. The legislative committee deciding whether to recommend Rowland's impeachment (search) was expected to conclude its presentation by the end of the day.
Rowland is under investigation for accepting gifts from friends, state contractors and employees. Some testimony so far has suggested that Rowland may have provided help in exchange for the gifts, an accusation the governor denies.
"Unless someone has an alternative explanation, it looks like clear and convincing evidence that the governor was involved in a number of corrupt relationships," said Rep. Michael Lawlor, a Democrat on the House Select Committee of Inquiry (search).
Ross Garber, Rowland's legal counsel, said he did not believe the committee had proven Rowland steered state contracts or loans toward friends who gave him gifts.
"I think what's missing from the proceeding is an indication that state government was compromised by any gift he received," said Garber, stressing that he does not believe the committee should impeach the governor for violating state ethics laws.
Rowland, a three-term Republican who also faces a federal corruption probe, has admitted accepting gifts but has denied providing anything in return. During cross examinations, his attorneys have portrayed the gift-givers as longtime friends and say the hearings have failed to establish evidence that warrants his removal from office.
Rowland challenged his subpoena to testify before the committee. On Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court (search) ruled that Rowland must appear. Garber has said he did not expect that to happen — at least on Monday.
After the impeachment committee concludes its presentation, Rowland's defense plans to call his budget chief, Marc Ryan. Most of the other witnesses on the list have asserted their Fifth Amendment (search) rights against self-incrimination.
Lawmakers on the committee have said they have not reached any conclusions about whether to recommend Rowland's impeachment.
"We are very mindful of the historic nature of what we're doing," said Rep. Ray Kalinowski, a Republican member of the committee.
The committee has heard wide-ranging testimony, including about loans Rowland and his wife solicited from state employees that have not been fully repaid, office collections taken up to buy Rowland a canoe and other gifts, and vacations paid for by aides and state contractors.
Some lawmakers have called Rowland's dealings with Robert Matthews, a wealthy businessman and friend, the most damaging testimony.
The panel heard testimony about a secret real estate deal between Rowland and Matthews that brought the governor a windfall. At the same time, Rowland was helping Matthews win millions of dollars by assuring bankers that Matthews would get a state loan for one of his businesses, according to testimony.
Rowland also placed a phone call from a golf course in an effort to lure an out of state company to Matthews' property, leading to a deal worth millions to Matthews.
"The pattern is emerging: Giving preference to people who have done favors for him as governor," said Gary Rose, a political science professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Rowland's precarious finances have repeatedly come up in testimony. Until last year when his salary was raised to $150,000, the governor was making $78,000 annually and paying substantial alimony while supporting a large family.