July 17, 2005
Trials and Errors
By STACEY STOWE, NY TIMESLINK
NOT long ago, they were headline news, the details of their private lives - from credit card statements to love letters - splashed across the state's newspapers and television reports. The public watched them resign from office, go to prison, testify against others.
But in recent months, the individuals in Connecticut's political corruption scandals - former Gov. John G. Rowland, former state treasurer Paul J. Silvester, former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim and the lesser-known names involved in their cases - have been quietly moving on with their lives, some trading the often luxuriant trappings of an elected official's life for the fixtures of an ordinary existence.
Mr. Rowland, 48, the three-term Republican governor, pleaded guilty in December 2004 to one federal count of conspiring to commit tax fraud and deprive the public of his honest service by accepting $107,000 in vacations, home improvements and airline flights from state contractors and others. Three others have been indicted in that scandal, and their cases remain unresolved.
At one time, Mr. Rowland made personal telephone calls to presidents. These days he stands in line to use the phone at the federal prison camp in Loretto, Pa., where he is serving a sentence of a year and a day. Even so, says his wife, Patricia, he has found purpose in his new life, teaching job skills to fellow inmates.
"He's keeping very busy," Patricia Rowland said earlier this month at the Collinsville Antiques Company in Canton, where she has a booth, selling wares that include a mahogany table, vintage porch swing and retro pillows. "And he's managed to keep his sense of humor, which is wonderful."
Records of Mrs. Rowland's credit card purchases and alimony payments from her first husband were read aloud during the impeachment inquiry of Mr. Rowland, which was halted when he announced his resignation from office in June 2004. After his resignation, the couple moved out of the gorgeously appointed Georgian-style governor's residence to a taupe-colored ranch on a quiet street in West Hartford. But looking more relaxed than she ever did when her husband was in office, Mrs. Rowland, 47, said she is "doing just fine."
Tan and fit in black pants, a yellow T-shirt and sandals, she spoke briefly about her job and state of mind. Displayed in her booth were copies of her 2003 children's book "Marvelous Max, the Mansion Mouse," which chronicles the hard adjustment of a boy who moves to the governor's residence and the mice already living there.
"I'm really doing fine," she said with a smile. "I'm extremely busy. Work is my therapy."
Then she whisked away to help a customer.
Friends of Mr. Rowland often said he was most troubled by the scandal's effects on his wife and children. His youngest child, R. J., writing in March in a Web log maintained by a classmate at Pomperaug High School in Middlebury, compared the specter of his father being sentenced to prison to the sense that "someone stuck a knife in my chest."
"It has come to the point where some nights I just lie in bed awake and think about life and the irony of it all," he wrote. "To think that a once respectable and prestigious man like my father used to pardon people from jail and now he might need a pardon for himself, it just doesn't seem real."
After State Treasury, Odd Jobs for Silvester
Before the governor's office drew the attention of federal agents, the state treasury was in the spotlight. In September 1999, Mr. Silvester, whom Mr. Rowland appointed treasurer in 1997, and who ran on his ticket in 1998, pleaded guilty to federal charges that included racketeering and conspiracy to launder money.
He admitted arranging a scheme to collect kickbacks in the form of campaign donations for himself and jobs for his mistress at the time, Lisa A. Thiesfield, and his associate Christopher A. Stack in exchange for contracts to manage pieces of the state's $20 billion pension fund.
After his guilty plea, Mr. Silvester was released on bond, but was later jailed after he violated a court order by repeatedly contacting Ms. Thiesfield.
Mr. Silvester was a star witness for the government in trials of others in the treasury scandal. On the stand, he reeled off a Homeric catalog of high-profile political players, describing money as "the mother's milk of politics."
He said he gave management of $200 million in state pension funds to the Boston-based Triumph Capital in exchange for $1 million sham consulting jobs for Ms. Thiesfield and Mr. Stack. The company and its lawyer were convicted of federal charges, including obstruction of justice.
In November 2003, Mr. Silvester was sentenced to four years in prison, which included time served. Upon release from federal prison, he was in a Hartford halfway house and working at the Bond Ball Room, a fancy Hartford dining room managed by the society caterer Ann Howard and her son, Joe Howard. Mr. Silvester's tasks included catering and working in the kitchen and office, Mr. Howard said.
Mr. Silvester, 42, is now serving a home confinement portion of his sentence and scheduled to be finished with that on July 23, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Mr. Silvester could not be reached for comment, but the New Haven real estate developer Joel Schiavone, a former Republican candidate for mayor, said Mr. Sylvester was doing odd jobs for him.
"He's doing some painting for me," Mr. Schiavone said. Asked if he would hire him full time once all the terms of Mr. Silvester's sentence ended, Mr. Schiavone said, "He's a very capable guy but he's worth more than I could pay him."
Mr. Silvester was divorced while in prison, said Michael Georgetti, a Hartford lawyer who represented Mr. Silvester in the divorce and in part of his criminal case.
Love Letters, Kickbacks and Investments
In September 2003, Mr. Silvester's mistress, Ms. Thiesfield, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting the $1 million sham consulting contract arranged by Mr. Silvester. During some of Mr. Silvester's testimony in the treasury cases, portions of his love letters to Ms. Thiesfield were read aloud in court. She listened, stone-faced.
Ms. Thiesfield, 35, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement, and fined $50,000. She finished her home confinement last Sept. 28, according to the prisons agency. She is working at Laz Parking, a company in Hartford. Answering the telephone late last month, Ms. Thiesfield softly replied "No thank you," to a request for an interview.
Government prosecutors granted Mr. Stack, a lawyer, immunity in exchange for his testimony about the scheme arranged by Mr. Silvester, which allowed Mr. Stack to collect consultant fees for investments that he said he knew nothing about and funnel a portion of them back to Mr. Silvester.
At the Triumph Capital trial, Mr. Stack said he could not remember many dates of the events, but he delivered the details of kickbacks that prosecutors sought.
After he testified, Mr. Stack said he realized he would no longer be able to find work as a lawyer locally so he resigned from the Connecticut Bar Association. He remains a member of the bar in "some other states," he said, in a telephone interview in early July.
During the treasury cases, Mr. Stack was president of a company that administered the Connecticut Higher Education Trust program. For the past three years, he has been a consultant for a Web-based publishing and education company, Saving For College, based in Pittsford, N.Y. His work includes writing and speaking at conferences on 529 college savings plans, said Joseph Hurley, the company president.
"He has extraordinary knowledge of the industry," Mr. Hurley said.
Mr. Stack, who declined to give his age, said he had nothing to do with his former associates at the treasury and looks back on that time as an unfortunate mistake.
"It's just a tragedy and an unfortunate experience for a lot of good people," he said. "I imagine that they, like myself, just want to get on with their lives."
Frederick W. McCarthy, chairman of Triumph Capital, is a Harvard graduate with origins in the tough town of Dorchester, Mass. He eventually became managing director of the Boston office of Drexel Burnham Lambert. During his tenure at Drexel, the firm was involved in the junk bond scandal. Mr. McCarthy was not charged in that case.
In September 2003, after the trial of Triumph, Mr. McCarthy pleaded guilty to offering the contracts to Ms. Thiesfield and Mr. Stack in exchange for Mr. Silvester's decision to increase the state's investment in the company. . He was sentenced to a year and day in federal prison, fined $1 million, required to perform community service and ordered to forfeit $4.6 million in management fees paid to Triumph. Mr. McCarthy, 63, was also barred for life from working in the securities industry.
According to the prison bureau, he was released from the federal prison camp on Jan. 28. William F. Dow III, who represented Mr. McCarthy during his sentencing, said recently that his former client was out of the country at a wedding but otherwise living in Palm Beach, Fla.
Bridgeport's Ganim, Grimaldi and Pinto
The corruption investigation of Bridgeport City Hall was the most comprehensive municipal investigation ever mounted in the state, said Michael Wolf, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Connecticut. Eleven people were convicted on corruption charges, most on guilty pleas. Only Mr. Ganim, once a serious Democratic candidate for governor, went to trial.
The government presented almost 50 witnesses in its case against Mr. Ganim on federal charges that included racketeering, bribery, extortion and mail fraud. In March 2003, he was convicted on 16 counts, including racketeering and bribery, and in July 2003 was sentenced to nine years in prison. He is appealing. His lawyer, Richard Meehan, said Mr. Ganim, 45, has been tutoring and mentoring fellow inmates since he arrived at the federal prison camp in Fort Dix, N.J., in the fall of 2003.
The government won its case against Mr. Ganim, whose wife and three children now live in Easton, largely on the testimony of those closest to him.
One important witness was Leonard J. Grimaldi, Mr. Ganim's former campaign manager. In federal court in June 2001, Mr. Grimaldi pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy and filing false tax returns. At Mr. Ganim's trial, Mr. Grimaldi testified that through his communications firm, he collected fees from companies with city contracts and split those fees with Mr. Ganim and with Paul J. Pinto, Mr. Ganim's chief campaign fund-raiser.
In an earlier career, Mr. Grimaldi was a newspaper reporter in Connecticut and wrote "Only in Bridgeport," a book of the city's history.
"I'm going to have to update that," he said with a laugh in a telephone interview early this month.
He was sentenced to 14 months in the federal prison camp in Otisville, N.Y., and fined $75,000. Released in August 2004, after serving some of his sentence in a Hartford halfway house, Mr. Grimaldi, 47, is serving 400 hours of community service and is writing again. He has had several articles published, including a piece on the Bridgeport corruption scandal in Connecticut Magazine that won a local prize. He has also developed a niche, writing family histories.
He lives in Easton, and married on June 4. "I'm happy," he said. Referring to the scandal, he added, "There are actually days now when I don't even think about it."
For his community service requirement, Mr. Grimaldi works with Bridgeport high school students on their college essays. Through this work, he has met local teenagers, including Kurdish émigrés and those who have been in the state foster-care system.
Fresh out of Fairfield University, Mr. Pinto started out as Mr. Ganim's driver in 1996 and rose to be his chief campaign fund-raiser. That relationship opened the door to a career at a Bridgeport architecture and engineering firm, where Mr. Pinto would become company president. In June 2001, he pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a racketeering conspiracy, committing mail fraud and filing a false tax return.
In his eight days of testimony at Mr. Ganim's trial, Mr. Pinto said he accepted kickbacks from developers for the mayor. In addition to money, he testified, he and Mr. Grimaldi lavished Mr. Ganim with "investment quality" wines, tailored shirts and expensive dinners.
Mr. Pinto, 34, was sentenced in September 2003 to 20 months in prison. He was released on June 15.
He is now working with his brother-in-law, an electrician, buying and renovating investment properties in Fairfield County, said Mr. Pinto's lawyer, H. James Pickerstein.
Two Relocations Related to Rowland
Jo McKenzie, who testified at the House impeachment inquiry of Mr. Rowland and whose white mane and chic attire lent color to the proceedings, is also moving on. Ms. McKenzie, 73, a delegate to the Republican convention and the former manager of the governor's mansion, has listed her house for sale for $996,900. The slate-roof Tudor style house is on Prospect Avenue, the same street as the governor's mansion.
And what of the hot tub, that banal emblem of suburbia that brought down a governor? It is no longer at the Litchfield cottage, and is now parked in the backyard of Mr. Rowland's West Hartford home.