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News

Top prosecutor’s fate will await completion of investigation, judge says

072020_PoliceConference_RockyHill_07.jpg
Yehyun Kim
/
CTMirror.org
Chief State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo Jr., at a news conference in July.

The commission with the power to hire and fire top prosecutors in Connecticut is awaiting completion of an independent investigation of how Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. came to hire the daughter of a top state budget official while he lobbied the budget office for raises.

Justice Andrew J. McDonald, the chair of the Criminal Justice Commission, said in an interview that no action will be taken until former U.S. Attorney Stanley A. Twardy Jr. reports the findings of his inquiry, which was commissioned by the governor’s office.

By statute, the commission’s primary function is to appoint the chief state’s attorney, the top deputies and the 13 state’s attorneys. The commission has the power to discipline state’s attorneys. Oddly, the law allows the commission only to remove the chief, not discipline him.

“We are awaiting the outcome of the independent review being conducted by Stan Twardy, which will be shared with the commission upon completion,” McDonald said.

Colangelo hired Anastasia Diamantis while he was lobbying her father, Kostantinos Diamantis, and other officials for help in securing raises for prosecutors. Kosta Diamantis was deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management before his firing on Oct. 28.

Two weeks later, the state contracted with Twardy, a partner at Day Pitney, “to conduct a factual investigation on behalf of the Office of the Governor regarding possible improprieties by state employees and possibly others.”

The existence of the investigation and details of Colangelo’s lobbying were first reported Dec. 3 by the CT Mirror. Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie had disclosed the hiring of Diamantis’ daughter on Oct. 1 in a column questioning the process and her qualifications for the $99,000-a-year job as executive assistant.

“Obviously the commission is aware of the news articles that have discussed the chief state’s attorney’s hiring of Ms. Diamantis, and I have been in contact with the governor’s legal counsel over the last several weeks about the issue,” McDonald said.

Colangelo said last month that he welcomed the inquiry and that there was nothing improper about Anastasia Diamantis’ hiring.

The commission has been silent on the controversy involving Colangelo, whom the commission promoted to chief state’s attorney two years ago from the ranks of the 13 regional state’s attorneys to complete the term of Kevin Kane, who retired. Colangelo was appointed to a five-year term in June.

“The commission did not want to interfere with the governor’s overall supervision of the investigation. And frankly, we don’t have the resources,” McDonald said.

The commission has a token annual budget of $409. The contract with Day Pitney was capped at $75,000.

The exact scope of Twardy’s inquiry has not been disclosed, but McDonald said it clearly extends beyond the hiring of Diamantis’ daughter, another reason in his view to await Twardy’s report.

“We are restricted to anything dealing with the Division of Criminal Justice and the chief state’s attorney. The investigation being conducted is broader than that,” McDonald said.

Aside from being second-in-command at the Office of Policy and Management, Kosta Diamantis was the director of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review.

Emails obtained by CT Mirror through a freedom of information request filed the day after Diamantis was removed not only showed that Colangelo had been lobbying for raises for his division, but also that Anastasia Diamantis long had a part-time job with a school-construction management company.

They showed that Anastasia Diamantis, a state employee since 2015, worked for the school construction company for several years and kept the part-time job for at least 14 months after going to work for Colangelo on July 3, 2020. The school job was not on her resume, but Colangelo said he was aware of it.

Anastasia Diamantis has declined interview requests. Her father told CT Mirror last month there was no conflict in her private school construction job and his state one.

Antonietta DiBenedetto-Roy, the owner of the construction management company, said Diamantis had worked for her on projects in Rhode Island, in part to avoid any potential conflict with her father’s role in overseeing construction grants. Emails show, however, that at least on a few occasions, the younger Diamantis helped the company with documentation on a Connecticut project.

The governor’s office has been circumspect about the reasons for Diamantis’ dismissal, initially saying only that he was removed because of “a personnel matter still under review.”

On Oct. 28, the night he was removed from his OPM job, Diamantis said Rennie’s column was a pretext for a removal that he attributed to tensions between the governor’s office and him and his boss at OPM. At the time, his daughter’s employment for a school construction company was not publicly known.

Diamantis, a former Democratic state representative, was hired for the school construction job in the Department of Administrative Services in 2015 during the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. He took the school job with him to OPM in November 2019 when Secretary Melissa McCaw made him her deputy.

Diamantis was fired from his OPM job, where he served at the pleasure of the governor, and placed on paid leave from his school-construction job, which came with civil-service protections. Rather than go on leave, Diamantis retired.