Are the “Papers & Mementos” of the only Connecticut governor to go to prison for corruption worth $500,000 - more than all the stuff collected from all this state’s chief executives from 1811 to 1935?
The answer is, probably not.
That half-a-million-dollar estimate on the value of the documents, gifts and assorted other crap from our felonious former Gov.John G. Rowlandwas made several years ago by state archivists.
They offered that guesstimate for insurance purposes not long after Rowland skedaddled from office in 2004 to avoid getting impeached. While he managed to dodge the embarrassment of being legislatively evicted as governor, Rowland couldn’t escape a 10-month federal prison term for corruption in office.
(Rowland has since become a radio-talk-jock for a Hartford-area station, and is once again under federal investigation involving alleged campaign hijinks in a Republican 5th Congressional District race. Of course, Rowland denies any wrongdoing. Just like he did back in 2004, until he plead guilty.)
By comparison, the insurance estimates for the records of all Connecticut governors over 124 years totaled less than $300,000.
State Librarian Kendall F. Wiggin says there are some simple reasons for the high price tag originally placed on Rowland’s stuff.
For one thing, Rowland served a lot longer than almost every other governor, having been first elected in 1994. As Connecticut government has grown in recent decades, so has the amount of paper produced by the governor’s office, so lots of time in office translated into a small mountain of documents for Rowland’s administration.
“It was just a tremendous amount,” says Wiggin, and that doesn’t even include the records of the months’ long legislative impeachment investigation.
At the moment, state archivists estimate Rowland’s records, etc., total about 670 cubic feet of storage space. For comparison, the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso’s documents use up only 367 cubic feet, the stuff from the late Gov. William A. O’Neill’s administration added up to 144 cubic feet, and former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker (a one-termer) generated just 78 cubic feet.
Then there was the huge amount of notoriety involved with Rowland’s departure from office. “Of recent governors, he’s the one whose papers generated the most interest,” Wiggin explains.
There were also quite a few gifts in the loads of cartons sent over to the State Library after Rowland quit. (No, there were no hot tubs of the type that triggered Rowland’s “gift” taking scandal.)
Included among the more than 180 items tagged as Rowland “mementos” are: a signed rugby ball from Eastern Connecticut State University’s 1000th rugby win; a 1995 Special Olympics torch; a Tiffany bowl; a bunch of clocks; and a print of Connecticut’s “Charter Oak” design commemorative quarter, signed by the artist who designed it.
“At the time, we didn’t know the value of some of those gifts,” says Wiggin.
So, to be on the safe side, state archivists decided to play it safe when asked for an estimate for insurance purposes and came up with what now seems like a really high number. “I think they were being cautious at the time,” is Wiggin’s explanation.
“Most of our appraisals are just our best guesses,” Wiggin says of how state officials come up with values for unique items like a nearly impeached governor’s records.
“As time goes on, we’ll probably reassess the value of the collection and that [estimated value] will probably go down,” Wiggin says of the Rowland archives.
He adds that Connecticut is pretty fortunate to have laws on the books requiring its governors to turn over their records upon departure from office. Many states don’t have that sort of requirement, according to Wiggin. He says Massachusetts, for example, doesn’t have all the records of one of its former-governors-turned-GOP-presidential-candidate, Mitt Romney.
We, however, are lucky enough to have all of our corruption-plagued ex-governor’s papers, which can only help future historians looking to explain how our state was once tagged with the nickname “Corrupticut.”