June 13, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Law: New York Times: Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III defends Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Peace Corps Colombia : The Peace Corps in Colombia: June 13, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Law: New York Times: Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III defends Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland

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Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III defends Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland

Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III defends Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland

Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III defends Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland

Two Lawyers, Trying to Put Connecticut's Governor Together Again

Douglas Healey for The New York Times

Caption: Gov. John G. Rowland's lawyers, William F. Dow III, above, and Ross H. Garber, have criticized the committee charged with recommending whether Mr. Rowland should be impeached. He is under scrutiny for gifts and favors he accepted.


Published: June 13, 2004

HARTFORD, June 11 - They are an unlikely pair, the governor's lawyers. One is a tall, gray-haired Yalie given to sports metaphors. The other, a product of a state university, is compact, baby-faced and prone to deadpan humor.

Yet neither blinks in the klieg lights of the impeachment inquiry of their client, Gov. John G. Rowland. And some days, when public support for the governor has flat-lined and the buzz surrounding him at the Capitol bleats in the ears like an alarm clock on a hangover morning, the lawyers, William F. Dow III and Ross H. Garber, seem to be the last men standing up for Mr. Rowland.

Last Tuesday, they were told to sit down. It was the first day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry. Both Mr. Dow, Mr. Rowland's private lawyer, and Mr. Garber, his in-house counsel, had alternately popped up to demand a witness list and other details of evidence.

"This is not a court of law,'' said Representative Arthur J. O'Neill, a Republican who is co-chairman of the House committee investigating whether to recommend impeaching Mr. Rowland. Flatly but politely, he said to Mr. Garber, "Sit down.''

The impeachment inquiry is a political process, not a criminal one, and it therefore hews to different rules, much to the consternation of the two lawyers, who have criticized the committee for not divulging the scope of its investigation or its standards for impeachment.

Mr. Rowland, a Republican in his third term as governor, is under scrutiny for gifts and favors he accepted. The legislative inquiry was initiated and a federal investigation gained steam after Mr. Rowland acknowledged, last December, that he had accepted free work and gifts for his Litchfield cottage from people doing business with the state.

Mr. Garber was hired in January 2003; Mr. Dow was hired last fall. Both are scrupulous about detail, work insane hours and are quick-humored.

Mr. Garber, 37, grew up in Montville, a speck of a town in eastern Connecticut. His father worked on submarine sonar systems in New London. Although Jewish, Mr. Garber graduated from a Catholic high school. He went on to earn undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Connecticut.

Later, he left a Washington firm specializing in white-collar litigation to clerk for Robert N. Chatigny, a federal judge who has recently heard some aspects of the corruption inquiry. In 2002, Mr. Garber, a Republican, lost a bid for state treasurer.

Physically, Mr. Garber, a broad man with thinning brown hair, appears all business. There are the heavy-rimmed glasses parked on an unlined face, the dark suits, white shirts and muted ties - an understated uniform for an understated city. His tone is firm but even. Don't be fooled: Ross Howard Garber has a hip side, packaged in his penchant for rapid-fire quips.

Recently, he was asked about the praise that had been bestowed on Supreme Court briefs, some submitted by him and his staff of four, others by the large law firm hired by the impeachment committee. "They had a lot of help,'' he cracked.

James W. Bergenn a former colleague of Mr. Garber's at the firm of Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, said, "He comes across as a Type B personality and is a Type A achiever, which is ideal in our business.''

The Type A side has become increasingly apparent, with Mr. Garber emerging as Mr. Rowland's most visible and effective spokesman, meeting reporters and offering comments on morning radio programs and Sunday talk shows.

He still makes breakfast for his daughter, Tess, 6, at their Glastonbury home. His wife, Gail Bysiewicz, is the director for government relations at the state university system. She is the sister of Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, who is the secretary of state and who has been raising funds for a gubernatorial run.

"I know,'' Mr. Garber once said, anticipating a reporter's query. "Conversation at Thanksgiving is'' - here he skipped a beat - "unusual.''

Free time is rare for both lawyers. Saturdays sometimes find Mr. Dow at his New Haven office, with his wife, Diane, an elementary school teacher. Call the office near midnight and he is likely to answer. If not, there is his phone message: "Depending on the day, I'm either counting my blessings, cursing my fate or saying the rosary.''

William French Dow III - known as Willie to virtually everyone - grew up in the Stony Creek section of Branford, now an enclave of pricey homes near Long Island Sound.

"It was Italian stonecutters when I was there,'' he said, countering a suggestion that his Ivy League education and patrician name had emerged from moneyed roots. He is Italian on his mother's side and Scotch-English on his father's.

After Yale, Mr. Dow joined the Peace Corps in Colombia. Then he earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, who live in the Westville section of New Haven, have seven children; the youngest is 22.

At 63, Mr. Dow still has the air of a schoolboy. There are his signature rep ties, the delight in an occasional curse word. He has an athlete's body; his slim waist is apparent when, in his stock gesture, he pulls back his suit jacket on his right side and hooks his thumb in the waistband of his trousers. His "salad days,'' he says, were the 10 years he served as commissioner of the Andy Papero T-Ball League.

William M. Bloss, his former law partner and a criminal defense lawyer, said, "He has less ego than almost anyone I know, and yet he is at the very top of his profession.''

Mr. Dow has been a public defender and a federal prosecutor. He is not unfamiliar with reading about his clients in the newspaper. But in his favorite case, he defended a man who fell asleep at the wheel and killed his passenger, a boy who worked for him. The charge of negligent homicide was ultimately dismissed.

"He was heartbroken over this kid,'' Mr. Dow said. "It felt good to win that one.''

As for Mr. Garber, his favorite case involved pro bono work he did in Africa on behalf of a woman seeking political asylum in the United States.

That both men have a predilection for the underdog is both ironic and understandable, given that they are defending a man who was one of the most powerful men in Connecticut.

"Anyway you cut it,'' Mr. Garber said, "this one matters.''

William Yardley contributed reporting for this article.

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Story Source: New York Times

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