John G. Rowland, who stepped down as Connecticut’s governor last summer in the face of impeachment, pleaded guilty today to a single federal charge of criminal conspiracy.
In the plea agreement, Mr. Rowland admitted to defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by failing to report gratuities, and to defrauding the people of Connecticut by failing to live up to his legal obligation to provide honest service.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Rowland had accepted $107,000 worth of free vacations, construction work on his cottage and other favors, and should have paid about $35,000 in taxes on the gifts.
They also accused Mr. Rowland of conspiring with his former chief of staff, Peter N. Ellef, and a prominent Connecticut contractor, William A. Tomasso, to steer state business to Mr. Tomasso’s companies. According to the prosecutors, Mr. Ellef used his inside knowledge to tip Mr. Tomasso off to opportunities for state contracts, and worked to steer business to him in return for “things of value.”
Mr. Rowland, they said, deliberately “avoided obtaining knowledge” of Mr. Ellef’s actions while approving state projects that benefited Mr. Tomasso.
In one case, they said, Mr. Rowland approved a no-bid contract issued to a company owned by Mr. Tomasso by the state’s Department of Public Works. In another, he directed a state official identified only as “an appointed commissioner” to execute a contract that benefited Mr. Tomasso.
Mr. Ellef and Mr. Tomasso pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case in September, along with Mr. Ellef’s son, Peter Ellef II.
Mr. Rowland, dressed in a crisp blue suit and powder blue tie, stood quietly for more than 45 minutes today during a hearing before Judge Peter C. Dorsey of Federal District Court. After the hearing Mr. Rowland spoke briefly to reporters.
“Obviously, mistakes have been made throughout the last two years, and I accept responsibility for those,” Mr. Rowland said. “But I also ask the people of this state to appreciate and understand what we have tried to do over the past 25 years in public service.”