- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A bipartisan committee of Connecticut legislators impaneled to consider impeachment of the state’s Republican governor will work independently of a federal corruption probe, one of the panel’s co-chairmen said yesterday.

“It would be easier for the committee if we had an outcome on the federal level and we knew what their decision was,” said Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, the Republican co-chairman of the panel. “But there is no way of prompting that to happen. They operate on their own timetable.”

Mr. O’Neill, a lawyer from Southbury, and other lawmakers say that Gov. John G. Rowland could be impeached regardless of whether he is indicted for his acceptance of gifts and free work on his Litchfield summer home from a contractor, state employees and politically influential friends.

“We are going to develop our own evidence and not just take somebody else’s word for it,” Mr. O’Neill said a day after the state’s House of Representatives voted unanimously (140-0) in a special session to form the 10-member committee.

Besides reviewing the evidence, the committee, the first in state history to investigate a sitting governor, initially must establish operating rules not provided in the Connecticut Constitution. It will hire a private counsel for assistance in completing its task by a tentative April 14 deadline.

Mr. Rowland, once widely popular, is the first Connecticut governor to be served with a subpoena for his personal records by federal prosecutors, who have targeted the Tomasso Group, a New Britain contractor, in the probe. A former aide to the governor, Lawrence Alibozek, has pleaded guilty to charges that he took bribes to steer state contracts.

Mr. Rowland initially denied the accusations, but has since admitted lying about the gifts, emphasizing that he neither returned the favors nor broke the law. The governor has apologized repeatedly, even going on live television to apologize.

“I have lived my own personal nightmare,” said Mr. Rowland, who has steadfastly refused considering resigning before his term expires in 2006.

U.S. Reps. Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republicans, and 11 of the 15 Republican members of the state Senate have called for the three-term governor to resign.

A University of Connecticut poll released last week reported that 64 percent of those surveyed wanted an impeachment inquiry. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that 68 percent of registered voters want the governor to resign.

Rep. John Wayne Fox, a Stamford lawyer and Democratic co-chairman of the committee, is the only veteran of impeachment proceedings, having served on the state’s one prior impeachment committee, that of Hartford probate Judge James H. Kinsella in 1983. That committee did not recommend impeachment.

If a majority of the committee, which has five Democrats and five Republicans, recommends impeachment, then the governor could be removed by a simple majority vote in the state House and a two-thirds vote in the state Senate. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.

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