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Investigator casts doubt on statements by Connecticut's top prosecutor in hiring probe

Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo and former OPM Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis were the subjects of an independent investigation commissioned by Gov. Ned Lamont.
CTMIRROR.ORG and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
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CTMIRROR.ORG
Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo (left) and former OPM Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis were the subjects of an independent investigation commissioned by Gov. Ned Lamont.

An independent investigator hired by Gov. Ned Lamont to probe alleged improprieties by government officials has called into question the credibility of statements made by Connecticut’s top prosecutor.

In a fact-finding report released Wednesday, an investigator from the law firm Day Pitney cast doubt on whether Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo told the truth about his decision to hire the daughter of a deputy budget chief.

The hiring came amid ongoing discussions between Colangelo and other state officials about his request to hike pay for top prosecutors in his office.

While both men have denied any wrongdoing, the investigator determined Colangelo’s account of where and when he first met the daughter of former Office of Policy and Management Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis was not credible, casting “doubt on the integrity of the circumstances” surrounding the hire.

In a statement released Wednesday, the governor said he has referred the matter to the Office of State Ethics and the Criminal Justice Commission to determine whether further action should be taken.

While he made no reference to specific conduct, Lamont said he was “very disturbed by the findings,” adding that the “people of Connecticut deserve transparency and accountability from their government.”

“It is critical that all public officials understand and comply with state ethics laws,” Lamont said.

"Based on the available evidence, we do not find credible the largely consistent accounts of Mr. Colangelo, Anastasia, and Mr. Diamantis concerning how Mr. Colangelo and Anastasia first met. Our conclusion that those individuals lack credibility concerning the straightforward question of how Mr. Colangelo and Anastasia first met casts doubt on the integrity of the circumstances surrounding Anastasia’s hiring with the Division."
Independent investigators, Stanley A. Twardy, Jr. and Sara J. van Vliet, DAY PITNEY LLP

Diamantis and the attorneys who represented him in conjunction with the state’s probe did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Contacted late Wednesday afternoon, the director of communications for the Division of Criminal Justice said Colangelo “has not had the opportunity to review the full report and is reserving comment until his review is complete.”

Diamantis, who stepped down in October 2021 from his post in the Office of Policy and Management, has adamantly denied he played any role in his daughter’s hiring. Records released to CT Public on Wednesday also show that the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut subpoenaed the state for records related to school construction projects and the state pier — eight days before the Lamont administration put Diamantis on leave.

During an interview last year with CT Public’s Accountability Project, Colangelo also denied any impropriety in the episode, saying 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 during last year’s interview 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 told CT Public. “I went to a dinner.”

The fact-finding report released Wednesday shows that the independent investigator also pressed for details about the event and poked holes in the timeline Colangelo offered.

“According to Mr. Colangelo, he first met Anastasia at an outdoor happy hour event, possibly one billed as a ‘Greek Night,’ at Cava Restaurant in Southington,” the report states. “Mr. Colangelo did not recall the specific date or have any record of when it occurred, but stated that it was ‘probably summer’ and certainly after March 2020 because it was during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

But after interviewing other state officials in attendance, the investigator determined it was implausible the gathering happened before Anastasia Diamantis was hired for the job, since he could find evidence of only two such events at the restaurant, both later that summer.

The investigator also highlighted discussions Colangelo had directly with Kosta Diamantis about the need for pay raises in his office, saying the pair had “extensive communications” on the “need to press the issue at OPM.”

Emails released to The Accountability Project last year also showed that Diamantis had at least one brief exchange with his daughter’s future boss that was directly related to the position.

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 told CT Public last year that he didn’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.

Announcing the findings Wednesday, the governor said his legal office will work with the Office of State Ethics to develop and deliver new ethics training to all political appointees within the executive branch in the next 90 days, with a “focus on conflicts of interest and improper use of office.”

Lamont also asked the state’s Criminal Justice Commission to provide him with a list of recommended policy changes, amendments to state law or “other remedial actions” within 30 days in response to the investigation.

Jim Haddadin is a data journalist for The Accountability Project, Connecticut Public's investigative reporting team. He was previously an investigative producer for NBC Boston, and wrote for newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas was an investigative reporter with Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project from July 2021 until August 2022.
Walter Smith Randolph is the Investigative Editor and Director of The Accountability Project at Connecticut Public Broadcasting. The New York City native comes to CT Public after a decade of reporting at local tv stations across the country.