New Haven – Prosecutors offered evidence Friday aimed at undercutting former Gov. John G. Rowland’s claim that his $5,000 monthly fee from Brian Foley’s nursing home chain was for substantial work, not a means to hide his alleged status as a paid consultant to the congressional campaign of Foley’s wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley.
Two vice presidents at the nursing home company, Apple Rehab, testified they never worked with Rowland, despite overseeing areas in which Rowland ostensibly was providing business advice on matters at the heart of a consulting contract he signed with Apple’s in-house counsel in October 2011.
Jack Boynton, who manages labor relations for Apple Rehab, testified that he never met with Rowland, nor did he get any significant advice or direction from the former governor, who supposedly was hired in October 2011 to give advice on a number of business areas, including labor relations.
The exception was a message from Rowland passed to Boynton as he negotiated a contract with workers at Apple’s facility in Rocky Hill: “Stay the course.”
“That’s it?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei.
“Correct,” Boynton replied.
Ann Collette, who manages marketing for Apple, testified she was called in April 2012 by members of her team who said they saw or read news reports about Rowland’s working as a consultant to Apple.
“I had no clue what they were talking about,” she said.
She described getting a frantic call from Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer, at 9 p.m. on April 24, 2012, telling her to look on her personal email account for something he wanted her to read. It was a draft of a press release announcing that Rowland had been a consultant for the previous six months working on, among other things, business development and patient census.
“I said, ‘Brian, I am in charge of business development and census, and I don’t know John Rowland. I’m a little bit confused about what you want me to write here,” Collette said. “He just said, ‘John works with me.’ ”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan asked how it’s been to get caught in the middle of the issue over Rowland’s work for Apple.
“It’s been horrible,” she said.
“Has it put a strain on your relationship with Mr. Bedard?”
Collette, who had been testifying in a brisk, confident voice, choked up. The judge’s courtroom deputy hurried to the witness stand with a box of tissues. Collette wiped tears, then gave her answer:
On cross-examination, Collette conceded that Foley on one occasion did hire a marketing consultant without telling her until the consultant’s report was finished for her review.
Rowland, who served 10 months in prison on federal corruption charges after resigning as governor, is accused is conspiring with Foley and Wilson-Foley to keep his name off Wilson-Foley’s campaign finance reports by paying him as a campaign consultant through Apple Rehab. Foley and Wilson-Foley have pleaded guilty.
Wilson-Foley’s staff had strongly advised her against hiring Rowland as a campaign consultant, saying that his public involvement could be fatal to her bid for the open 5th Congressional District seat in 2012. In fact, her campaign imploded after Rowland’s involvement became public.
The last witness Friday was Andrew Roraback, who defeated Wilson-Foley and two others to win the Republican nomination for Congress in 2012, only to lose the general election to Democrat Elizabeth Esty.
Roraback testified that he was stunned by how Rowland, as a talk radio host on WTIC-AM, turned on him in 2012. He said he had no idea Rowland was secretly helping to run Wilson-Foley’s campaign — or that he was behind the early attack Wilson-Foley ran against him.
He described an alarmed call one afternoon from his brother, Chip, after Rowland gave listeners Roraback’s cell phone number and urged to call him over the possibility that Roraback, then a state senator, would vote to the repeal the death penalty.
“He asked me what I ever did to John Rowland,” Roraback said.
Roraback is now a Superior Court judge.
Senior Judge Janet B. Arterton said she was aware that Roraback was a colleague, but she reminded him he was in her court as a witness.
“May we address you as Mr. Roraback?” she asked.
Roraback smiled and said, “You certainly may.”
Prosecutors told Arterton they will conclude their case Monday morning without calling Wilson-Foley as a witness. Her husband testified.
The government also will not be calling Mike Clark, the congressional candidate who filed the Federal Election Commission complaint in 2012 that led to the criminal case. Clark, a retired FBI agent, had supervised the investigation that led to Rowland’s original prosecution and guilty plea.
The defense has not indicated who, if anyone, they will call.