The infamous hot tub that became the symbol of ex-Gov. John G. Rowland's ethical lapses has turned out to be a gift that keeps on giving --nothing but trouble.
The state Department of Public Works is looking into how one of its employees came to own the spa, last seen outside Rowland's summer cottage on Bantam Lake in Litchfield. It had been given to Rowland by gubernatorial aide Christine Corey, and it figured prominently in various investigations into the former governor's conduct.
This latest inquiry is the result of some detective work by DPW Commissioner James B. Fleming, according to sources. While at the Executive Residence in Hartford last week for Rowland's resignation speech, Fleming noticed a hot tub on the grounds -- a round hot tub. The much-publicized Bantam Lake hot tub, he recalled, was square.
Fleming queried DPW administrator Darren Cugno about the discrepancy, the sources said. Cugno was particularly qualified to discuss the issue, having supervised the transport of the gubernatorial spa from Bantam Lake to the residence and back again a few years ago -- at taxpayer expense.
After what sources described as some discussion, Cugno acknowledged that the round tub Fleming had spotted at the residence was not the Corey hot tub. Cugno admitted Rowland had given him that one.
Now, sources say, Fleming has ordered a departmental inquiry to determine, in what is taking shape as a hyper-ethical post-Rowland era, whether there was anything ethically improper with Cugno's taking the tub -- and whether Cugno fully explained the transaction to DPW officials.
The sources said Rowland, wanting to prepare the cottage for renters, had offered Cugno the hot tub some weeks before. Cugno moved the tub to his home in Colchester, the sources said.
Cugno told DPW officials he offered to pay for the tub, but Rowland declined and suggested a donation to a charity. Cugno told DPW officials he made out a check to charity, sources said, but has not produced it.
DPW officials had little to say about the probe.
``There's been an issue raised in regard to one of our employees and the hot tub that we are currently investigating,'' DPW attorney Anna Ficeto said. Fleming could not be reached for comment.
When reached at home Thursday, Cugno referred a reporter to the DPW press office, saying, ``I'm unable to comment about DPW matters.''
DPW sources said they were unaware the governor owned two hot tubs until Fleming's discovery. Sources said the hot tub moved to the rental house in West Hartford where the Rowlands now live is not the one given to them by the Coreys.
It could not be determined Thursday where the second hot tub came from or how long the Rowlands have owned it. Rowland could not be reached for comment Thursday.