Probe launched as details surface about former Connecticut budget official's daughter landing high-paying job
The state’s deputy budget chief abruptly resigned in October after news surfaced that his daughter landed a high-paying job at another state agency.
Now the governor’s office has hired a team of outside investigators to probe the situation and “any potential improprieties by state employees,” according to records obtained by Connecticut Public.
Kosta Diamantis, who stepped down in October from his post in the Office of Policy and Management, has adamantly denied he played any role in his daughter being hired for an executive assistant job in the Division of Criminal Justice.
Emails released to CT Public’s Accountability Project offer new insight into the situation, however, showing Diamantis had at least one brief exchange with his daughter’s future boss related to the position.
Diamantis was contacted by Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo in July 2020 with a question about the process for filling the executive assistant job, which pays $99,000 per year.
Emails show the two also discussed a request by Colangelo for salary increases for his staff around the same time.
That request was ultimately rejected by OPM, where Diamantis worked. But his daughter still landed the job as an executive assistant, beginning in early July 2020.
Both men told Connecticut Public last week that nothing improper took place.
During an interview Thursday, Colangelo said he first met Anastasia Diamantis at a dinner, where the two discussed her background.
“She was well-spoken,” he recalled. “She had, you know, impressive educational credentials. I asked her to send me her resume to see if we had anything.”
At that time, Anastasia Diamantis had been working at another state agency for almost five years, first as a secretary and then as a disability claims examiner assistant with a $61,000 annual salary.
Colangelo declined to estimate how many others attended the dinner, or why it was arranged, though he believes Kosta Diamantis was also present, he said.
“I don’t know how to characterize it,” he said. “I went to a dinner.”
Anastasia Diamantis did not return phone calls or respond to an email seeking comment.
Responding by email, Kosta Diamantis wrote that his daughter is “quite capable of getting her own job any time.” He did not address questions regarding the dinner.
“As a young woman in today’s day and age she makes up her own mind of what she wants to do,” he wrote.
Emails show that six days after Anastasia Diamantis was offered the position, staff in the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services contacted Colangelo’s office for guidance on which state agencies were required to review the hire.
Colangelo forwarded the email to the OPM secretary and to Kosta Diamantis, who worked underneath her as a deputy in the budget office. Colangelo said he wanted to talk.
Kosta Diamantis responded about one hour later with two words: “All set.”
His daughter started the new higher-paying job in Colangelo’s office two days later.
Colangelo said he doesn’t remember what Diamantis intended to signify with his response to that July 1, 2020, email. He said state law gives the chief state’s attorney autonomy to hire staff without approval from the governor’s budget office.
“It was never decided that we needed OPM approvals,” Colangelo said. “I couldn’t tell you what he was thinking when he said ‘All set.’”
Kosta Diamantis said he was communicating that Colangelo didn’t need further approval and could make the decision himself.
News of the hire eventually surfaced in a column published Oct. 1, 2021, by the Hartford Courant. Kosta Diamantis resigned a few weeks later.
Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, declined to comment on whether his office is investigating any allegation involving Kosta Diamantis.
Lewandowski, speaking generally, and not about this situation, said government workers in Connecticut can’t use their jobs to obtain financial gain for a family member.
That includes by trying to sway the hiring process. But the law isn’t clear-cut; actions that pose a conflict in one instance might not in another. A low-level staffer who recommends a family member for a job doesn’t wield the same influence as someone in management, for example.
“It all depends what type of authority … you exercise over the hiring agency, and what type of position you hold in state government,” Lewandowski said. “It’s very fact specific.”
In comments published earlier this year by CT Mirror, Kosta Diamantis said he believes his removal was the consequence of a contentious relationship between the inner circle in the governor’s office and the budget office where he used to work.
In an email Friday, he said the governor’s chief of staff and general counsel “could not grasp the complexity” of the matter involving his daughter or the conversations about the raises.
He said he does not believe he should have recused himself because he had no potential ethical conflict.
A spokesman for the Lamont administration declined to respond to written questions, saying the departure is a personnel matter.
He provided a copy of a Nov. 15 contract the attorney general signed on behalf of the governor’s office with a law firm to complete an independent investigation.
“Independent counsel was retained in order to ensure a complete and thorough review, free of any potential claim of partiality,” the spokesman, Max Reiss, wrote in an email Friday. “This independent inquiry is ongoing. The Office of the Governor will not have further comment as this is an ongoing review.”