Conn. gov. pleads for forgiveness

Caucus to consider impeachment today

January 08, 2004|By Elizabeth Mehren | Elizabeth Mehren,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BOSTON - Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut apologized yesterday for lying about gifts he accepted but pledged to remain in office despite a federal corruption probe and calls for his resignation or impeachment.

"I lied, and there are no excuses," the governor said in a six-minute speech televised throughout New England. "I should have known better, and I do know better."

Rowland's plea for forgiveness came one day after federal criminal investigators served the three-term Republican governor with a grand jury subpoena in connection with a probe of improvements made to Rowland's vacation cottage.

Also on Tuesday, Rowland met with a half-dozen legislative leaders who are weighing the possibility of impeaching the governor.

And hours before his terse television address, Connecticut's Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that 56 percent of state voters believe Rowland should resign. Only 13 percent of those polled said they considered the governor trustworthy.

Rowland's troubles stem from $30,000 worth of repairs made in 1997 to his lakeside home in the western Connecticut community of Litchfield. Rowland initially said he paid for a hot tub, a cathedral ceiling and other renovations.

But on Dec. 12, the 46-year-old governor admitted that staff members and state contractors provided labor and gifts that improved the property. The Tomasso Group, one of the construction companies that Rowland admitted did free work on his house, has been under scrutiny in a federal bid-rigging investigation.

As part of the bid-rigging probe, Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, has pleaded guilty to accepting cash and gold. Alibozek is awaiting sentencing.

Rowland in 1997 became the first Connecticut governor to pay an ethics violation fine after accepting free concert tickets. Last year, Rowland was fined by his state's ethics commission for accepting reduced-rate vacation accommodations at homes in Florida and Vermont owned by the Tomasso Group.

In an interview yesterday, state Rep. Jim Amann - Connecticut's Democratic majority leader - said a legislative caucus would convene today to consider impeaching the governor. He said a legislative investigation also was possible.

Under Connecticut law, however, impeachment is a prolonged and complicated process. No governor has been impeached, Amann said, and the last time the process was invoked was more than 20 years ago, when a state judge was removed from office.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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