Connecticut lawmakers started the formal process Wednesday of trying to impeach embattled Gov. John Rowland, who remained adamant that he would not resign despite accusations of corruption.
Democratic House Speaker Moira Lyons said she had decided to launch an impeachment probe of Rowland, a Republican who is accused of accepting free renovations on his vacation home from contractors who were working for the state.
Lyons made the announcement at the state Capitol after a private meeting with Rowland to inform him of the decision, which could lead to his being the first governor to be impeached in 16 years.
Speaking briefly after meeting Lyons, Rowland said he would not bow to pressure.
“I will continue to do this job to the best of my abilities each and every day,” the stern-faced governor said.
Lyons, citing Alexander Hamilton’s line that impeachment was reserved for those elected officials who abused or violated the public trust, would not predict the outcome of the probe.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a longtime friend, have urged the governor to resign for accepting gifts from state employees and contractors and lying about it. Federal authorities are investigating the corruption allegations.
Rowland has asked for forgiveness but insists that he will not resign despite polls that show most residents want him to leave office.
Once a contenderRowland’s potential impeachment marks a remarkable fall from grace for a politician once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.
In 2000, before George W. Bush announced his running mate in his campaign for the White House, his name was mentioned frequently as among those Bush could tap as vice president.
Lyons said she would appoint a bipartisan committee to investigate the governor’s conduct and report to the full House of Representatives.
“What the governor did is wrong,” she said. “The question for the committee is: Are the actions impeachable?”
Pressure to oust Rowland, a former insurance agent in his third term as governor, comes just months after California voters chose to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replace him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rowland could become the first governor to be impeached, convicted and removed since 1988, when Evan Mecham of Arizona was forced from office.
Since 1862, 18 sitting governors have been impeached, but not all were forced from office. Eight were acquitted after their impeachment, six were removed, three resigned and one governor’s term ended before the process could be completed, the Council of State Governments said.