CROMWELL, Conn. – In what some lawmakers are taking as a veiled threat, Gov. John G. Rowland (search) is warning legislators that their own ethical shortcomings could come to light if they press for his impeachment.
"He said when the press gets tired of him, they will start on us," said Democratic Rep. Michael Lawlor, recalling a recent meeting at the governor's mansion. "It was clearly highlighted in the discussion and inappropriately so, I thought."
Other lawmakers — including some of those who have called on Rowland to step down — said they did not see the governor's remarks as a threat. They said Rowland was merely pointing out a political reality.
"I personally have never felt threatened by Gov. Rowland," said John Kissel (search), one of 11 GOP state senators who urged Rowland to resign.
Rowland said he only told the lawmakers they should be careful about setting "standards" for impeachment that could be applied to everyone.
Dean Pagani, Rowland's chief of staff, said some lawmakers were the ones who brought up the idea that they, too, could have ethical violations that might become known.
"It's on the minds of lawmakers as this process goes forward," Pagani said. "They realize there is the potential for unintended consequences."
The governor is under federal investigation and is facing threats of impeachment and calls for his resignation for accepting free renovations on his summer cottage and then lying about it. Rowland has said that the gift-givers were friends and that he did not promise them anything in exchange.
On Tuesday the Connecticut Post became the eighth daily newspaper in the state to call for the governor to resign. But despite the mounting pressure, Rowland made it clear that he is staying put.
"I've made mistakes. I've apologized for those mistakes. I've taken responsibility for those mistakes and now it's time to govern," he told a crowd of reporters who followed him and his wife, Patty, to his car after a speaking engagement Tuesday.
Rowland is scheduled to meet privately Wednesday with Democratic House Speaker Moira Lyons (search), who must decide whether the House should go ahead with impeachment. If he were impeached in the House, a two-thirds majority in the Senate would be required to remove Rowland from office.
The governor acknowledged Tuesday that he expects Lyons will call for impeachment hearings.
Pagani said although the governor originally opposed the hearings, he now believes they could provide a fair stage for him to defend himself.
"At least it levels the playing field. Right now, I think things are being driven mainly by news coverage. Legislators have not had the chance to sift through the fact and fiction themselves," he said.