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Lamont says more oversight needed as former top official faces FBI investigation

Ned Lamont CT-N Aug 19 2021
Still image from a CT-N video.
Gov. Ned Lamont announces a vaccination requirement for state employees and educators.

The FBI has launched an investigation into state-funded construction projects that were under the purview of the former deputy budget director, Kosta Diamantis, who abruptly resigned in October.

Gov. Ned Lamont says if it were up to him, he would fire the state’s top prosecutor. This comes a day after the governor’s office released an investigation into the hiring and pay raise scandal between his deputy budget director and the state’s top prosecutor.

The FBI has launched an investigation into state-funded construction projects that were under the purview of the former deputy budget director, Kosta Diamantis, who abruptly resigned in October after news surfaced that his daughter landed a high-paying job at another state agency. Those construction projects are also now under state audit.

“I think we’re thinking about an inspector general or somebody else who can come in and take a second look at the nature of these contracts as well,” said Lamont. “So we're doing everything we can to get this right.”

Lamont stopped short of casting blame on anyone else in his administration but has said it is clear that more oversight was needed.

The governor has also said that the hiring and pay raise issue and potential problems with school construction grants were never brought to his attention by his staff. He said he first found out about the hiring scandal by reading a column in the Hartford Courant. He claims he learned of the school construction grants investigation when the FBI sent his administration a subpoena for records back in October.

“I don’t think there was enough oversight, but the chips will fall where they may. Let’s see what was going on in terms of construction,” said Lamont.

Meanwhile, the investigation found that the state’s top prosecutor, Rich Colangelo, lacks credibility because of his statements on how he met the deputy budget director’s daughter. Colangelo ultimately hired her for a high-paying job while he lobbied for pay raises for his office.

Colangelo is appointed by a panel of judges and others, but Lamont said, “I don’t hire him. You know, I don’t fire him. But if I did, he’d be gone.” 

So were any laws broken here by these top state officials?

The Lamont administration has declined Connecticut Public’s requests to disclose the investigators’ legal findings.

The two men at the center of the controversy — Diamantis and Colangelo — say the investigative report proves they did not break the law.

“If it’s about the truth, the truth is no quid pro quo,” Diamantis said during an interview with The Associated Press.

Colangelo’s attorney said Thursday that while there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest here, no laws were broken.

“With the benefit of hindsight, Mr. Colangelo should have been more sensitive to issues relating to the appearance of a conflict of interest when making hiring decisions,” said James I. Glasser, Colangelo’s attorney. “But the simple truth is Mr. Colangelo was motivated only by his interest in fixing an unbalanced pay scale for the benefit of his employees, the state, and the people of Connecticut; he did absolutely nothing improper when trying to right that past wrong.”

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.