Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision to reimburse People Magazine for a trip to Washington, D.C. comes almost 16 years to the day that then-Gov. John Rowland was fined for attending six rock concerts in Hartford.
Malloy will reimburse the magazine for more than $1,200 in expenses for a 22-hour trip that included attendance at the White House Correspondents Association dinner.
Almost 16 years ago – in a personal check from Fleet bank that was dated April 29, 1997 – Rowland paid a fine of $2,000 following a widespread controversy about concerts that he attended at the Meadows Music Theatre off Interstate 91 in Hartford. Rowland’s fine included payments for six staff members who were also fined in the case by state ethics officials.
Rowland was among various public officials who were fined in the heavily covered case, including Lewis B. Rome, a former gubernatorial candidate and former chairman of the University of Connecticut board of trustees. Rome had received 19 complimentary tickets over a two-year period, but he said that he had done nothing wrong because he had served as an attorney for the music theatre as a private attorney. But since he was both the head of the UConn trustees and vice chairman of the Connecticut Convention Authority, Rome was deemed as a public official at that time.
As part of the case, the Meadows and its lobbyist paid fines of $250,000 for failing to report $100,000 in gifts and perks to state employees and their families – marking the largest fine in the history of the Connecticut ethics commission.
A staffer for the Senate Democrats was also fined $250 and paid $500 to charity after accepting tickets to the popular concert venue.
Rowland was investigated for attending outdoor concerts in both 1995 and 1996, including James Taylor on July 16, 1995; Carly Simon on July 23, 1995; Reba McEntire on August 31, 1995; the Eagles on June 22, 1996; Celine Dion on July 24, 1996, and Jimmy Buffett on August 24, 1996. The theatre’s grand opening concert, featuring Michael Bolton on July 14, 1995, was not part of the ethics case.
After the controversy, Rowland’s legal counsel, Mary Ann Hanley, sent a memo to staff members that said, “We must be more careful about accepting gifts of any kind. As for concert and event tickets, I am advising that you should not accept free tickets or purchase tickets through any lobbyist.”
On Thursday, after Malloy paid the reimbursement, Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield said, “As I said yesterday, the governor was in violation of our ethics laws and needed to make amends. He has begun that process by reimbursing People Magazine for the gift he accepted, but he and his staff continue to set a bad example for elected officials and state government by defending his actions. His dismissive attitude toward state ethics laws sets a dangerous precedent. I look forward to hearing the opinion of the Office of State Ethics on this matter.”
State Republican chairman Jerry Labriola said, “I’m pleased that Governor Malloy suddenly ‘found religion’ after getting caught sinning on his free trip to this high-profile celebrity party. But it’s not just the monetary cost of the Governor’s frequent travels or who pays for them. His hobnobbing around the globe also means he is not here in the state he was elected to govern. Governor Malloy’s appetite for out of state travel makes Arthur Fromer look like a recluse. How about less bubbly and more budget?”