By WILLIAM YARDLEY
|HARTFORD, June 21 - Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut
announced Monday that he would resign from office July 1, yielding to a
devastating political reality that for months left him with few defenders
as he faced an impeachment inquiry and a federal corruption investigation
into his personal relationships with people doing business with the state.
Standing with his wife, Patricia, at 6 p.m. on a terrace outside the governor's residence, Mr. Rowland spoke for less than six minutes and evoked both his promising rise as a state lawmaker first elected in 1980 and his tangled descent toward Monday's events, when he became the first Connecticut governor to resign under pressure.
The governor, a third-term Republican once among the stars of his party, mentioned his mistakes in just one sentence, a line not included in the official text of the speech released afterward by his office.
|"I acknowledge that my poor judgment has brought us
here," he said in a televised address.
Mr. Rowland's speech was quickly criticized by many Democrats who said it was too little, too late. But its ultimate message - that he would resign - prompted near universal relief in a Capitol consumed with scandal for months.
Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican who has served relatively quietly since being elected with Mr. Rowland in 1994, will be sworn in as the state's 87th governor on July 1, serving out the remainder of Mr. Rowland's term, which ends in January 2007. Kevin B. Sullivan, the Senate President pro tem who is a Democrat, will succeed her as lieutenant governor.
"Many challenges lie ahead, but working in a bipartisan manner we will return optimism, civility and pride to our great state," Ms. Rell said in a statement released three hours before the governor's announcement. "I will focus my energies on restoring confidence and trust in state government, and I look forward to leading our state with a new sense of steadiness and determination."
When Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Rell are installed, it will be the first time in more than half a century that the chief political parties will share power in the state's two highest offices. Still, the prospect of having to bridge a partisan divide in the governor's office seemed, at least for now, a small hurdle after months of tension. The impeachment inquiry cost taxpayers more than $4 million.
"We're going to make this easy," Mr. Sullivan said Monday when he encountered the House Republican leader, Robert M. Ward, who smiled in return and shook his hand.
Aides to the governor insisted that his resignation was driven by politics: the realization that at a time when polls show two-thirds of the state's residents want him to resign, lawmakers - even Republicans - would be loath to defend him against impeachment in their election year.
Ross H. Garber, the governor's in-house lawyer, also said the resignation was not prompted by the federal investigation, which has been going on for months and, according to people involved in the inquiry, is focusing on a longtime friend of the governor's. Nor is it related, he said, to a State Supreme Court ruling on Friday that effectively ordered the governor to testify before the impeachment committee, Mr. Garber said.
Had he been impeached, Mr. Rowland would have been the first governor ever impeached in Connecticut and the first nationwide since 1988, when Gov. Evan Mecham of Arizona was impeached and removed after a Senate trial.
Another Arizona governor, Fife Symington, was the last to resign under pressure, in 1997, after he was convicted of fraud.
Mr. Rowland still faces the federal investigation, as well as the challenge of finding a source of income for his five children and step-children, no small tasks for a politician about to lose his job, his house, his salary and his transportation. He also faces additional alimony payments to his first wife, to be paid when he leaves elected office.
Marc S. Ryan, the state budget director and one of the governor's closest aides, insisted that Mr. Rowland was employable.
"There are opportunities right now for him," he said, tears in his eyes as he left the governor's residence after the speech. "There are business opportunities, living opportunities, so he will be able to make this transition."
Still, about 60 people, including appointees and commissioners, who gathered at the Governor's Mansion on Monday evening for the announcement, appeared deeply shaken. Arthur Spada, commissioner of public safety, said afterward that the governor was "trying to console the audience," and that many people were visibly upset. Mr. Spada said the governor relied on some of his famous good humor.
"He had the smile and the occasional funny remark," Mr. Spada said.
Since December, when Mr. Rowland admitted he had lied about work done to his Litchfield vacation cottage by people working for and doing business with the state, investigations into his relationships with prominent state contractors have heated up. In addition, two former members of his administration have been indicted on corruption charges, and his former co-chief of staff, Peter N. Ellef, will be indicted soon, according to his lawyer.
The House Select Committee of Inquiry, which was established in January to consider whether the governor should be impeached, heard testimony portraying the governor as a politician of limited means who benefited from a steady stream of thousands of dollars in gifts - including cottage renovations, real estate deals and vacations - arranged and paid for by people who earned millions doing business with the state.
His resignation halted what would have been the third - and last - week of public testimony before the committee, which was to hear details Monday of the state's construction of a new juvenile training facility involving a construction company with close personal ties to Mr. Rowland.
Many members of the committee said they had believed Mr. Rowland's assertions that he would never resign. The committee now plans to issue a report but will not vote on impeachment.
"I was gearing up for marching down the road all the way to the end," said Representative Arthur J. O'Neill, a Republican from Southbury who is the committee co-chairman. "We may never know exactly what the outcome might have been. But now we don't need to know."
There was accumulating evidence that Mr. Rowland could not even count on the support of the five Republicans on the committee.
"I think we had a consensus all along, and I think it would have been a unanimous vote," said Raymond C. Kalinowski, one of the Republicans on the committee.
Robert M. Ward, the House Republican leader and once an ally of the governor, said, "It's appropriate for the governor to resign based on the evidence we've seen." Mr. Ward was not on the committee.
Television crews gathered at the Capitol early Monday as word spread that resignation was imminent. By noon, Mr. Rowland's parking space was occupied by reporters interviewing many of the people mentioned as possible candidates for his office in 2006, including William E. Curry, the Democrat Mr. Rowland defeated in 2002; Susan Bysiewicz, the secretary of the state and a Democrat, and William A. Aniskovich, a Republican from Branford.
Ms. Rell, who is considered likely to run for the seat, made no public appearances all day.
In just seven more months, Mr. Rowland, 47, would have become the longest-serving governor since Connecticut adopted its Constitution in 1818. When he was first elected, in 1994, after serving three terms in Congress, he was the youngest governor in the nation. Six years later he was considered a possible running mate for George W. Bush's candidacy.
On Monday, Ron Kaufman, a friend of Mr. Rowland since 1980 and a White House political director under President George H. W. Bush, said the governor's troubles have affected him far more in Connecticut than nationwide, and that he still has the friendship of the Bush family and many others in Washington.
"John is a very, very bright, intelligent man who's gone through a dark period," he said.
Some Democrats were harshly critical of the speech. Roy Occhiogrosso, a political consultant for Global Strategy Group who was campaign manager for Mr. Curry, the governor's opponent in 2002, called the speech "a pathetic, self-serving statement" and noted that Mr. Rowland never apologized.
George C. Jepsen, chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, called the speech "a porthole into his character," and said, "He continues to view himself as a victim."
Despite his insistence that he would never resign, the governor and his top staff members had "open and frank discussions about the reality of the situation" this spring, said Dean C. Pagani, the governor's chief of staff until April.
On Saturday, the governor attended the wedding of a close friend at the Waterbury Country Club, in his hometown. Then, said Mr. Ryan, the state budget director, "Over the weekend he only met with his closest aides, his wife and lawyers, and we all had input. By the end, everyone, including the governor, was saying the time has come."