Rowland cannot escape his past

When Mark Greenberg, a Republican candidate for Congress in the 5th District race, was running for that office two years ago, former governor and convicted felon John Rowland offered to become one of his political consultants if he could be paid through the candidate's shelter for stray dogs, but Greenberg wasn't biting.

As Little Orphan Annie's dog Sandy liked to say in the funny papers, "Arf."

Rowland's attempt to work for a candidate while seeming to work for his charity was apparently made before he became the host of WTIC's afternoon drive time talk show in September 2010. Most of that show deals with Connecticut political issues, so it would have been highly improper for Rowland to be working for a candidate even if he were paid by the candidate's animal shelter.

It turns out Rowland likes to work for Republicans running for Congress in the district he served as a boy congressman before finding fame and felony as governor. Now he's an unpaid "volunteer" for another 5th District GOP candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley, but before that, until the end of March, to be precise, he was a paid consultant for a company called Apple Rehab, which operates 26 nursing and rehab facilities.

Apple Rehab is owned by Brian Foley, the spouse of the aforementioned Lisa Wilson-Foley. Foley said the work Rowland did for his company involved short-term strategic initiatives and his experience was relevant to many of the issues facing "a large and diverse health care organization."

Much of this, from the dog consultancy to the nursing home gig, was first reported by The Torrington Register Citizen.

Rowland was hired by Foley last Oct. 1 and was paid $5,000 a month until March 31 and, according to WTIC, he told the station about the part time job.

A station executive said WTIC saw nothing wrong because Rowland doesn't discuss the congressional race on his show. That it's the only real House contest in the state this year doesn't seem to matter to the host or the station.

But Rowland and WTIC didn't tell his listeners he was working for a candidate's business and he was volunteering in her campaign, organizing a fundraiser and lining up delegates. That's wrong. (Full disclosure: I worked for WTIC Radio and TV 40 years ago until the TV station was sold by the Travelers to The Washington Post in 1974.)

While he may not be discussing the race in which he has a horse, Rowland does manage to say nasty things rather often about some of the people running, especially the presumed front-runners, Republican Andrew Roraback and Democrat Chris Donovan.

But the story doesn't end there. The 5th District has lots of candidates, including former FBI man Mike Clark, whose association with Rowland also goes back a while. He worked on the Rowland corruption case that resulted in the governor's resignation and jail term and is hoping to fill his old seat in Congress too.

And now, candidate Clark isn't at all happy about Roland's contributions to his opponent's campaign and has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

All this adds up to a real mess for the station, the candidate and the program host. It smacks of the kind of stuff Rowland was involved in while governor.

The explanation of Rowland's consultancy in Wilson-Foley's family company sounds credible, but when it comes with his earlier attempt to work secretly for Greenberg and his failure to tell his listeners about all of the above, the entire thing has a corrupt aroma.

Now, when Rowland second-guesses the governor every day, listeners have every right to wonder if he's angling to become a consultant in the next gubernatorial election - with WTIC's permission, of course.

In a way, it's regrettable Rowland didn't get the animal shelter job, as it would have been interesting to hear them explain how he qualified to consult with an institution whose residents had gone astray.

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