Gov. John G. Rowland announced his resignation Monday in a defiantly upbeat speech, proclaiming his love of family and public service and ignoring the threats of impeachment and indictment.
Rowland, 47, the state's 86th governor and its first to resign in the face of an impeachment inquiry, said he will step down at noon July 1, handing over an office in turmoil to Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Rowland offered no explanation for his resignation or its timing in a five-minute, 45-second speech delivered at 6 p.m. and broadcast live on television from a garden outside the Executive Residence in Hartford.
He never mentioned being the subject of a federal criminal investigation into bid-rigging in his administration, nor did he refer to the impeachment hearings over the past two weeks that documented his acceptance of gifts and favors from state contractors and a circle of close aides.
The only nod to the personal and political crisis that had paralyzed his ninth year as governor was a line absent from the three-page text.
``I acknowledge that my poor judgment has brought us here,'' Rowland said.
News of Rowland's intention to resign broke Monday morning after his aides notified Connecticut's television stations that the governor wanted live coverage of a speech he planned to deliver that evening. WTNH-TV, Channel 8, was first to broadcast the news.
He made his decision Saturday afternoon during a two-hour meeting with five key people: his wife, Patricia; his chief of staff, Brian Mattiello; his budget chief, Marc S. Ryan; the counsel to his office, Ross Garber; and his personal lawyer, William F. Dow III.
On Friday, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to reject his claim that the House impeachment committee had no authority to compel his testimony. The decision left him with three bad options: defy the legislature; assert a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination; or testify, knowing that FBI agents and the U.S. attorney's office would be trying to use the testimony against him.
Several sources who consulted with Rowland, who spoke on the condition they not be named, said no one factor drove the timing of the decision. Rowland told staff, the sources said, that even had he survived impeachment, he could never again govern with authority.
He called a small circle of friends Sunday and informed them of his plans. He asked Rell to meet him Monday morning at the residence, but he did not explain why until she arrived at the Georgian Colonial mansion at 990 Prospect Ave. Rowland's staff and commissioners, along with a few friends, began arriving at the residence late Monday afternoon for an invitation-only reception. At a gathering described as somber, yet upbeat, Rowland thanked them for their support.
At 6 p.m., he and his wife made an entrance through French doors onto a garden patio, where his staff and family silently waited on folding chairs. The only sound was the soft music of songbirds.
On a comfortable night that marked the change of a season, Rowland quickly set about to announce the coming change of government.
``As you know, Patty and I have made a decision that we believe will not only affect our family but certainly will affect the state of Connecticut,'' he said. ``The months leading to this decision have been difficult for all of us.''
He offered the terse acknowledgement of his ``poor judgment,'' a line that one top aide said the governor always intended to deliver, but simply declined to include it in his prepared text. Then he confirmed that his remarkable career would end in nine days.
``Effective at noon on July 1st, I will officially step down as governor and pass this honor on to Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell, who is a very fine and a very capable and experienced public servant,'' Rowland said. ``She shares many of the hopes and many of the dreams that brought this administration to a third term, and I know you will work with her during this transition.''
Rell, who will become Connecticut's second woman governor, finishing the remaining 2 1/2 years of Rowland's term, was not present.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the governor and his family," Rell said in a statement released by her office. "He pledged his full cooperation in ensuring a smooth and seamless transition."
Also absent was Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan, D- West Hartford, who will become lieutenant governor. As the top-ranking member of the Senate, Sullivan was next in the order of gubernatorial succession.
Resignation: Rowland Remains Unapologetic
Rowland Still Faces Federal Corruption Investigation
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