State also releases report on investigation into Chief State’s Attorney Colangelo’s hiring of Diamantis’ daughter
The FBI is investigating the state-financed reconstruction of the State Pier in New London and school construction grants overseen by Kostantinos “Kosta” Diamantis before the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont fired him from a top budget post.
A federal grand jury issued a subpoena for all emails, text messages and attachments involving Diamantis and a broad range of construction projects on Oct. 20, eight days before he was removed as the state’s second-highest budget official and its school construction grants director.
As the subpoena seeks all communications from Jan. 1, 2018, to Oct. 20 regarding the planning, bidding, awarding, and implementation (including the construction process) on all State school construction projects, Norwalk’s school construction projects would appear to be on the list for scrutiny.
Norwalk is currently renovating Jefferson Elementary School, after completing construction of the Ponus Ridge addition. Most notably, there’s the unusual plan to build a new Norwalk High School with 80% reimbursement from the State. State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) has said that concept began in May 2019 in his state Capitol office, where he and Diamantis discussed the effort to repair the aging Norwalk High School and decided it was “just really putting good money after bad.”
Duff did not answer a Thursday email asking about the project’s prognosis given the federal grand jury’s interest in Diamantis or if he’d heard from the F.B.I.
Mayor Harry Rilling said he didn’t foresee the investigation having any effect on the high school project proceeding. He said it had undergone oversight and approval by the state legislature, which approved its funding.
The project was supported by Lamont and State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-11). It was greenlighted by the Connecticut State Senate, without objection, in October 2020, after it cleared opposition in the House from Republicans who said Duff was seeking to go outside the normal review process.
Lawyer calls the developments ‘disturbing’
The existence of the investigation was revealed Wednesday with the state’s release of a copy of the subpoena in response to a Freedom of Information request by CT Mirror and other news organizations. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office had no comment on the status of the investigation.
The revelation came on the same day the Lamont administration released a report on an outside ethics investigation into Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr.’s hiring of Diamantis’ daughter, Anastasia, while Colangelo lobbied him for help in securing raises.
Norm Pattis, a lawyer who represents Kosta Diamantis, had no comment other than to question why federal prosecutors had yet to approach his client.
“It’s disturbing to me to see that there’s a subpoena now three or four months old, and the feds never picked up the phone and asked to talk,” Pattis said. “I called them today and said, ‘You want to talk?’ So, let’s see what they do.”
It was not clear what prompted the federal investigation or when it began, though a former employee of a construction management company that employed Anastasia had been making allegations she had been hired to influence her father, according to the ethics investigation report.
Stanley A. Twardy Jr., a Day Pitney partner and former U.S. attorney, was commissioned by the governor’s office to examine whether Colangelo’s hiring of Anastasia violated state ethics rules. Neither his inquiry nor his report dealt with the construction projects under review by the FBI.
Colangelo, Diamantis ‘lack credibility’
Anastasia Diamantis was hired as an executive assistant on June 11, 2020, during her interview by Colangelo and others. No one else was interviewed for the position.
Twardy questioned the truthfulness of Colangelo, Kosta Diamantis and Anastasia Diamantis, each of whom were interviewed for the inquiry in their account of how Anastasia met Colangelo and learned of the position. Their account was contradicted by others, Twardy wrote.
“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,” he wrote.
Colangelo’s office said he was reserving comment until completing his review of the report.
His veracity was questioned at other points in the report, including on the question of how he came to learn that Anastasia had outside employment with a school construction management company.
Twardy said Colangelo denied discussing hiring Anastasia with her father, but Colangelo could not explain how Kosta Diamantis knew to forward the job descriptions for jobs in Colangelo’s division to Anastasia if the two had never discussed a job for Anastasia.
His report also quoted an unnamed employee in the Division of Criminal Justice describing Colangelo presenting Anastasia’s resume, apparently for an open grants administration job, and tapping on her last name.
“Look at the name,” Colangelo said, according to the employee.
Lamont refers Twardy report to Ethics, Justice
In a statement, Lamont addressed Twardy’s finding, not the federal investigation.
“I wanted this independent investigation conducted because the people of Connecticut deserve transparency and accountability from their government,” Lamont said. “I am very disturbed by the findings in Mr. Twardy’s report. I am referring the matter to the Office of State Ethics and the Criminal Justice Commission because under our laws, they are the appropriate bodies to determine what further action should be taken. It is critical that all public officials understand and comply with state ethics laws.”
Justice Andrew McDonald of the Supreme Court, who is chair of the Criminal Justice Commission empowered to hire and fire prosecutors, said the lengthy report was under review.
“Once we have reviewed it, we intend to work with the attorney general’s office to determine whether any rules, policies or statutes have been violated and what next steps, if any, the commission will take,” McDonald said.
Twardy’s report only details findings of fact, but “our legal analysis and recommendations have been provided separately in an oral briefing to the Office of the Governor as privileged attorney-client communications that are exempt from disclosure under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act,” the report states.
As to the independence, the investigation was not wholly independent of the governor’s office.
His general counsel, Nora Dannehy, was present during at least some of the interviews Twardy conducted, including the one with Anastasia, according to state Rep. Chris Ziogas, D-Bristol, a relative and non-practicing lawyer who accompanied her.
Questions of who knew what, and when
Kosta Diamantis simultaneously was deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, an unclassified political position, and the director of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review, a classified job with civil service protections.
On Oct. 28, Diamantis was removed from the OPM position by the governor’s office and suspended with pay from the school construction post. Rather than accept the suspension, Diamantis retired. At the time, the only publicly known issue about Diamantis was his daughter’s hiring.
Questions were first raised about her hiring in a Kevin Rennie column published Oct. 1 by The Hartford Courant.
On Dec. 3, CT Mirror first reported that Anastasia Diamantis was hired by Colangelo while he lobbied her father and others at OPM for help in obtaining raises, and that she had a second job working for a school construction management company, a position not on her resume.
Her outside employment by Construction Advocacy Professionals, or CAP, was referenced in emails she wrote that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Colangelo had told CT Mirror in an interview that he was aware of Anastasia’s outside employment, but he and Anastasia gave conflicting accounts to Twardy regarding whether she disclosed it.
She insisted she had, though she could not recall when. Colangelo said he learned of her side job through an odd communication by the state police in late July or early August, which stated that a former CAP employee had been making threats against his former co-workers, including Anastasia, according to the report.
Colangelo was described as incurious about the threat, saying he did not sense the state police took it seriously. He described that communication as the first time he had heard about Anastasia’s job at CAP.
But state police told Twardy that they hadn’t contacted Colangelo at all.
“At the same time, Mr. Colangelo stated that he believed the State Police relayed this information to him because the State Police thought it possible that the former CAP employee might show up at the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in Rocky Hill,” Twardy wrote. “Despite that belief, Mr. Colangelo did not recall asking for the name of the former CAP employee who allegedly made the threats or taking any action to advise anyone in the Chief State’s Attorney’s of that possibility.”
“When asked if he was aware of allegations by the same former CAP employee that Anastasia was a ‘ghost employee’ at CAP to bribe Mr. Diamantis in his then position as Deputy OPM Secretary, Mr. Colangelo stated he had no knowledge of those allegations at that time,” Twardy wrote. “He stated that had he been aware of those allegations at that time, he might have followed up with Anastasia concerning her then concurrent part-time employment with CAP.”
But Col. Stavros Mellekas, the commanding officer of the state police, disputed Colangelo’s account, saying the police had no reason to contact Colangelo. He said the police had investigated a threat against Kosta, not Anastasia, and that Kosta had shared a text indicating he had told Colangelo about the threat.
“When viewed in its totality,” Twardy wrote, “we find that the information obtained from the Connecticut State Police directly contradicts Mr. Colangelo’s statements.”
Colangelo, Kosta Diamantis, Anastasia Diamantis and OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw were among the people interviewed for Twardy’s investigation. All were represented by counsel.