Governor's Hot Tub Well-traveled

How many movers does it take to haul a hot tub?

If it belongs to Gov. John G. Rowland, the answer appears to be five -- plus a state Department of Public Works employee to supervise the job.

That's according to bills from a private mover who lugged the tub, at public expense, from Rowland's Bantam Lake cottage to the Executive Residence in Hartford in November 2001 and back to Litchfield the following May. Total cost of the moves: $1,751.

The bills add a new twist to what has become a signature ingredient in the governor's current ethical stew: the hot tub given to him in 2001 by a husband and wife who both held state jobs.

The tub became a political issue in December when Rowland, fending off questions about work done at his Bantam Lake cottage, insisted that he had bought it himself. He later was forced to admit that the tub was a gift from Christine and Paul Corey, friends whom Rowland had appointed to patronage positions. He also acknowledged thousands of dollars of work done for free by a state contractor and other state employees.

The hot tub gift, the free work and other aspects of Rowland's relationship with state contractors and employees have come under scrutiny as part of a broad federal investigation into alleged bid-rigging in his administration. Thousands of pages of documents have been subpoenaed -- including records of the hot tub moves.

Those records show that in November 2001, several months after Rowland received the hot tub, the Department of Public Works hired CMS, a commercial moving company in Windsor, to move the tub from the cottage to the Executive Residence. CMS billed the state $890.

The billing record for the November tub transport does not itemize the cost. The record was more complete six months later, when DPW hired CMS again to return the tub to the cottage. An invoice said that CMS dispatched a supervisor, a driver and three helpers to haul the hot tub back to its spot by the lake. CMS billed $861 for the seven-hour job.

In one of its invoices, CMS described the job as follows: ``Special instructions: Move large piece of furniture from Governor's residence on Prospect Avenue to van Winkle Road in Litchfield. Darren Cugno will accompany and direct movers to Litchfield.''

Cugno is a public works employee assigned to the Governor's Mansion. A colleague of Cugno's said that Cugno is the state employee who typically arranges to move Executive Residence furniture. Cugno declined to discuss the hot tub.

``Absolutely not,'' he said.

Patrick Nolan, official spokesman for the public works department, had little more to say about the tub move. It was not until the question reached DPW Commissioner James Fleming's office that the department determined that the ``large piece of furniture'' described in the invoices was in fact the gubernatorial hot tub.

In a statement approved by Fleming, the department said its moving of Rowland's personal property was not unusual.

``In accordance with past practice, [the hot tub] was moved from state property to property owned by the Governor. This has been done for past governors,'' the statement said. ``DPW is reviewing statutes and past practice on this issue to ensure that any future expenditures of state funds to move personal items will be in accordance with the statutes.''

Employees answering the telephone at the Windsor moving company referred all questions about the tub to owner Raymond Fallon, who did not respond.