Impeachment panel subpoenas Connecticut governor
From Jonathan Wald
(CNN) -- The impeachment committee investigating Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has subpoenaed him to testify as its first witness in public hearings.
Arthur O'Neill, co-chairman of the committee looking into allegations of corruption against the governor, sent the subpoena Tuesday night ordering him to appear before the committee on June 7 at 10 a.m.
Rowland's chief attorney, Ross Garber, said he was "surprised" by the subpoena because the committee "as late as Friday ... indicated an interest in issuing the governor an invitation to testify."
But O'Neill said the panel decided a subpoena was needed.
"We decided to subpoena rather than send a letter of invitation because we got the impression from the lawyers representing the governor that he may not attend voluntarily and that an invitation would just cause more discussion, making it a waste of time," O'Neill told CNN.
Rowland has not decided whether he will appear before the committee, said the governor's spokesman, John Wiltse.
In a letter to the committee's co-chairmen, Garber complained that the subpoena was "unprecedented" and violated the separation of powers between executive and legislative branches of government.
"No committee of either house of the Connecticut General Assembly has ever before summoned a sitting Governor to testify before it," wrote Garber. "Indeed ... Congress has never subpoenaed a sitting president to testify before it."
O'Neill dismissed Garber's concerns. "The very nature of an impeachment inquiry requires the legislative branch to reach across the boundaries that normally separate the legislative and executive."
Garber's letter also asks the impeachment committee to define the scope of its investigation, what standard for impeachment will be used and whether Rowland has the burden of proving he should not be impeached.
"We will wait on the committee's response to our concerns and queries before deciding if the governor will testify," Wiltse said.
But while O'Neill said he would review the letter he insisted "the committee is not inclined to have the executive branch set the standards or the burden of proof or the scope of the committee's investigation - those things fall under the jurisdiction of the Inquiry Committee and the House of Representatives."
The impeachment inquiry began in January when the 46-year-old Republican governor admitted a month earlier in a televised address that he lied about who paid for renovations to his summer home. After originally claiming he paid for the construction himself, Rowland confessed that state employees and people wanting to do business with the state paid for the installation of a hot tub, a heating system and cathedral ceilings.
Rowland is also under federal investigation for his dealings with state contractors, making his decision to appear before the committee an awkward one. If he testifies, he risks incriminating himself in the federal investigation. If he stays silent, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, he risks appearing as if he has something to hide.
Rowland has already been fined for accepting a set of free concert tickets and a below-rate hotel room. Last year, one of his top aides pleaded guilty to taking gold and cash from companies in exchange for steering state contracts their way.
No governor in the history of Connecticut had ever been fined for ethical violations. Rowland has already been fined three times by the ethics committee.
Connecticut's ethics commission is also probing the sale of a condominium in Washington by Rowland, a former congressman, for an above-market price.
The Impeachment Committee plans to report its findings to the full House of Representatives by June 30. If the committee recommends impeachment and the House votes to impeach, the governor will face trial in the Senate.