John G. Rowland as governor.
John G. Rowland
John G. Rowland

The lawyer defending former Gov. John G. Rowland and his budget chief, Marc Ryan, against a lawsuit by unionized state employees said Friday that his clients are now backing a settlement effort by Attorney General George Jepsen.

“Following discussions with the Attorney General, Governor Rowland and Marc Ryan will not pursue further legal action at this time to defend the claims asserted against them personally,” Daniel J. Klau said in an emailed statement. “Governor Rowland and Mr. Ryan are hopeful that the Attorney General will be successful in his efforts to resolve this longstanding dispute.”

The decision suspends their defense in the case, but it does not end it.

A coalition of unions sued the state and the two former officials, saying that layoffs ordered by Rowland targeted were directed at union members to punish specific unions, rather than save money.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued a unanimous ruling in May concluding that Rowland’s layoffs illegally targeted members of unions that defied his call for contract concessions. The court directed the trial judge to hold a trial to determine damages.

Jepsen initially concluded that the appellate decision was a threat to management rights and petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. But Jepsen reversed course, opting to begin settlement talks.

Rowland and Ryan, who were sued in their official and personal capacities, pressed the Supreme Court to review the case, but the high court denied their petition earlier this week.

The immediate response then by Rowland and Ryan was a vow to file a motion asking the trial judge to dismiss the personal claims against them. They would be covered by any settlement negotiated by Jepsen.

The attorney general’s office intends to ask the trial court to suspend all proceedings, including depositions and other forms of discovery, while the settlement talks proceed.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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