- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Three Connecticut newspapers called for Gov. John G. Rowland’s resignation yesterday after his admission that a state contractor helped pay for work on his summer home, a charge the governor had earlier denied.

“Rowland’s honor, credibility, and ability to lead have been destroyed,” read the editorial in the Journal Inquirer of Manchester.

The Day of New London and the Herald of New Britain also ran editorials calling on the Republican governor to resign. Democratic lawmakers criticized him, and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, a liberal activist group, demanded he step down. The largest of the state’s 17 daily newspapers, the Hartford Courant, hadn’t weighed in.

Mr. Rowland admitted Friday that the Tomasso Group, a major state contractor, and his former chief of staff, who is under investigation in a corruption scandal, paid for work on his summer home, ranging from gutters to a hot tub.

The written statement came 10 days after Mr. Rowland insisted that he alone paid for the improvements on the house.

“The governor’s latest statement … raises the real question of whether John Rowland is in the position to govern our state any longer,” House Majority Leader James Amann said Friday.

Under state ethics laws, it is illegal for the governor to take any gifts of more than $10 in value from people doing or seeking to do business with the governor’s office.

The governor said that while he paid for more than $30,000 in improvements to the cottage in Litchfield, friends, contractors and subcontractors paid for some of the work. He said none of them received any benefit from the state in exchange.

The Tomasso Group, while it has many contracts with the state, does not have contracts with the governor’s office.

State Republican Party Chairman Herb Shepardson said Mr. Rowland will be able to put the matter behind him.

“I’m confident when the dust settles the governor is going to be fine,” he said.

The scandal is just the latest in a series of problems for Mr. Rowland, however.

Earlier this year, the governor paid nearly $9,000 to settle an ethics probe over his use of vacation homes owned by state contractors and also settled an Elections Enforcement Commission complaint, paying $6,000 to cover personal charges he made to a state Republican Party credit card.

In 1997, he paid a $2,000 Ethics Commission penalty for accepting undervalued concert tickets. It was the first ethics fine levied against a sitting Connecticut governor.

In March, Mr. Rowland’s former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty to accepting cash and gold in exchange for steering state contracts to certain companies. The Tomasso Group was also subpoenaed as part of a related corruption investigation.

Mr. Rowland’s former chief of staff, Peter Ellef, who also is under investigation, also paid for improvements at the cottage, including a water heater, Mr. Rowland said.

In his statement, the governor did not say whether he would repay any money.

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