NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned amid an impeachment probe and spent 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a corruption charge, plans to take a job marketing his hometown of Waterbury, a city with its own history of political scandal.

Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura has offered him a job as the city’s economic development coordinator, but not everyone thinks Rowland is the right fit for a city that has sent two previous mayors to jail.

“I believe he’s the absolutely worst person for the job,” Lawrence DePillo, an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in Waterbury, said Wednesday. “It’s another black eye for Waterbury.”

Former Waterbury Mayor Philip A. Giordano is serving 37 years in prison for sexually abusing two girls. A decade earlier, former Mayor Joseph Santopietro was convicted of embezzling federal funds, bank fraud and tax evasion.

Rowland, a Republican who resigned in 2004, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting he accepted more than $100,000 in vacations and chartered trips to Las Vegas from a state contractor and a jet company that received a tax break. He was placed on supervised release for three years after he left prison nearly two years ago.

Jarjura, a Democrat, said it was his idea to offer Rowland the job in Waterbury, a blue-collar city of about 108,000 30 miles west of Hartford.

“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” Jarjura said Wednesday. “I said, ‘Who can bring the dynamics to bear here?’ and I kept coming back to John Rowland. This guy’s got talent, he’s right here, why can’t we tap into that?”

Rowland will technically work for Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce, but part of his salary will be paid by the city. Jarjura said he expects Rowland to make between $90,000 and $120,000 a year, but he said he and chamber directors will determine the exact amount.

“He readily admitted he made a very, very bad mistake,” Jarjura said. “He paid a very, very severe price for those mistakes as he should. I feel he’s atoned.”

Rowland’s appointment has strong support in the business community, said Stephen Sasala II, chief executive officer and president of the chamber. He said he considers the job a done deal and expects Rowland to start in the coming weeks once negotiations are complete.

“It’s going to give the city of Waterbury and the Greater Waterbury region a major shot in the arm,” Sasala said.

As governor, Rowland was the driving force behind a downtown revitalization project that includes an arts magnet school and a University of Connecticut campus in the city he has long called “the center of the universe.”

“He’s revered in that city,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the politics department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “He did an awful lot for Waterbury.”

But Rose questioned whether Rowland could be effective.

“Do people want to associate their business with Rowland?” Rose asked. “He can be very persuasive and possibly he can overcome some of the perceptions. I think it’s going to be a really interesting, challenging process to watch.”

Rowland told The Associated Press that he hopes to accept the job in the next few days.

“It’s a very exciting proposal,” he said. “I get to return to my first love and that’s the Waterbury community.”

Asked if he believed people were ready to accept him back in a public role, Rowland said that was not a concern.

“It’s through the chamber of commerce, so it’s not really public,” Rowland said. “It’s not public money. There was a lot of encouragement and support for this. Life is not perfect. We’re an imperfect society with imperfect people, just trying to do the best job that we can.”

DePillo said the move was political payback for Rowland, who had supported Jarjura and other Waterbury officials.

Jarjura denied that and said he believed Rowland could be effective.

“No matter who you are, you develop some adversaries, but I think generally business people are interested in doing business,” Jarjura said. “They’re not interested in all the political business other people are interested in.”



Associated Press writers Pat Eaton-Robb and Cara Rubinsky in Hartford contributed to this story.

AP-ES-01-24-08 0106EST


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