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Amid hiring scandal, state's top prosecutor decides to retire

Yehyun Kim
Chief State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo Jr., at a news conference in July.

Facing removal from office, Rich Colangelo — the state's top prosecutor — has informed the Criminal Justice Commission that he will retire from the job March 31.

Faced with being removed from office, Rich Colangelo — the state’s top prosecutor — has informed the Criminal Justice Commission that he will retire from the job March 31.

Commission member Scott Murphy said the panel planned to fire Colangelo, had he not stepped down.

“We found the conduct of the chief state’s attorney to be both extremely disappointing and disturbing,” said Murphy. “If he had not chosen to retire, we are confident that this commission would have moved to terminate him.”

The move comes one week after an independent report was released by the governor’s office outlining the questionable circumstances of him hiring the daughter of the governor’s deputy budget secretary. That investigation completed by former U.S. District Attorney Stanley Twardy concluded that Colangelo’s statements to investigators were not credible. 

Colangelo’s retirement letter focused on the mechanics of his departure: when he will leave and how he will hand off his caseload to other attorneys in his office. The letter from his attorney, however, maintained that Colangelo did nothing wrong.

“Because he now feels it is in the best interest of the Division of Criminal Justice, he is retiring. The Citizens of our State are, unfortunately, losing a dedicated public servant,” the letter reads.

John Russotto will become acting chief state’s attorney at the beginning of April.

The announcement came Wednesday as the Criminal Justice Commission was weighing Colangelo’s future as the state’s top prosecutor amid the scandal.

The process to remove the state’s top prosecutor takes months, and the chairman of the Criminal Justice Commission, state Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, said the retirement speeds that up.

“I want to thank Mr. Colangelo for doing the right thing under very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Gov. Ned Lamont, whose deputy budget chief was wrapped up in the hiring scandal with the prosecutor, brought up the issue during his State of the State address before the General Assembly Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, what matters most in all of this is trust — trust in your law enforcement, trust in the courts and trust in your government. I will hold anyone accountable who breaches that trust, starting in my administration. I have zero tolerance for any ethical malfeasance. We hold ourselves to the highest standards. If you see something, say something, and if you don’t get the response you deserve, give me a call,” he said.

The deputy budget chief was let go about a week after the Lamont administration received subpoenas from the FBI about his work in school construction and the state pier.

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.
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.
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas was an investigative reporter with Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project from July 2021 until August 2022.
Matt Dwyer is a producer for Where We Live and a reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department.

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