Hugh McQuaid photo
Brian Bedard, at left, walks out of court with his attorney, Hugh Keefe, in New Haven (Hugh McQuaid photo)

NEW HAVEN — A witness testified Tuesday that Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign had an “incestuous” relationship with the nursing home company that federal authorities say was illegally paying former governor John G. Rowland for political work.

The former governor is on trial facing charges that he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign, but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.

The testimony came from Brian Bedard, an executive at Apple Rehab. Bedard was the first witness called by Rowland’s lawyers after prosecutors rested their case Monday.

When Rowland’s consulting contract with Apple Rehab was exposed in news reports, Bedard said he was tasked with drafting a press release explaining it. He said he tried to keep it off email accounts associated with Apple Rehab.

“This was so incestuous. The campaign, Apple, trying to keep it out … I did it initially on my private email, then subsequently sent it to my Apple email,” he said.

The next day, Bedard said he delivered that statement to Foley at his wife’s crowded campaign headquarters.

“The windows were all covered in paper. I walked in and I was a little surprised to see that many people there,” he said.

But Bedard maintained that Apple’s relationship with Rowland was legitimate. Responding to questions from Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, Bedard said he never believed the former governor’s work at Apple to be a cover. “Not for a split second,” he said.

Rather, Bedard told the jury he was worried Foley had brought Rowland in as his possible replacement.

“I had some concerns. I thought, potentially, John was maybe there to take my job,” he said.

But before prosecutors rested their case Monday, they presented the jury with evidence suggesting Rowland spent far more time calling and emailing Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign staff than he had with Bedard and other Apple executives.

From October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls with Bedard compared to 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

Early in the trial, Foley told the court his relationship with Rowland was “primarily” designed to be a boon for his wife’s congressional ambitions.

“I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Election Commission,” Foley said. And “he would be supportive of the campaign. That was a way not to have to report him to the Federal Elections Commission.”

But Weingarten has painted Foley as desperate to avoid the repercussions of his own related charges and willing to sell out Rowland to avoid consequences for himself and his family.

During his testimony, Bedard discussed work he said Rowland did for Apple including a more than three-page analysis of a report on trends in the nursing home industry. Bedard said he was uncomfortable with the ties between Apple and the Wilson-Foley campaign and viewed Rowland as an ally in an effort to detangle the two entities. 

“I thought that I would now have assistance in keeping those kinds of activities outside of Apple,” Bedard said, describing his frame of mind after he’d had a lunch meeting with Rowland.

Last week, an Apple executive testified that during Wilson-Foley’s 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor, 58 staff members were asked to gather in a seminar room for a mock debate. Bedard played the role of Wilson-Foley’s opponent during the debate.