Conn. Gov. Rowland, Former Insurance Agent, Resigns from Office Amid Impeachment Inquiry

John Rowland, a member of a prominent Connecticut insurance and political family and himself a former insurance agent, resigned last evening as governor of Connecticut rather than testify before a legislative panel investigating his possible impeachment.

Following the state Supreme Court’s ruling on June 18 that he would have to testify before the legislative committee, Rowland opted to exit office rather than prolong the political battle that had left him with little public support.

“I acknowledge that my poor judgment has brought us here,” the Republican said in his resignation speech.

Rowland, who is 47, will be replaced on July 1 for the rest of his term by Republican Lt. Gov. M. Jodi. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan, a Democrat, will become lieutenant governor. The next gubernatorial election is in 2006.

Rowland was born in Waterbury, the descendant of a family steeped in Connecticut insurance and politics. He worked as an insurance agent for his family’s Waterbury agency until 1984, when he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican had previously won seats in the state House in 1980 and 1982.

He ran for governor in 1990 but lost to independent Lowell P. Weicker Jr. He won in his second try in 1994 against Democrat Bill Curry. He won re-election and again in 2002.

If Rowland had completed his current term, he would have become the longest-serving governor in state history.

Rowland’s political career began unraveling last March when his former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty to steering state contracts. Following that news, a parade of allegations about gifts and favors surfaced. Eventually, Rowland admitted to accepting thousands of dollars worth of improvements to a summer home in Litchfield from contractors who did business with the state.

According to press reports, one of his friends who is also a state contractor bought his Washington condominium at an inflated price through a straw buyer and Rowland allegedly received various gifts including cigars, a Ford Mustang, and discounted vacations from associates including some with state contracts.

Rowland has denied that he ever did anything in return for the gifts. But the allegations damaged his approval ratings and led to demands for his resignation from both Republicans and Democrats.

While state and federal authorities investigated, a state House committee has been weighing whether to recommend Rowland’s impeachment. The committee had been scheduled to begin its third week of hearings this week.