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FBI investigating projects related to fired state official Kosta Diamantis

State also releases report on investigation into Chief State’s Attorney Colangelo’s hiring of Diamantis’ daughter

Konstantinos (Kosta) Diamantis, then-Director of the Connecticut Office of School Construction Grants & Review, center, speaks Dec. 9, 2019, in Norwalk, at the announcement of a plan to build a new Norwalk High School. (Harold F. Cobin)

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.

7 comments

DryAsABone February 4, 2022 at 7:38 am

The more things change in Hartford, the more they stay the same.
Almost $200K in salary per year with more than generous raises and the FBI still has to come knocking.

Jim Tru February 4, 2022 at 9:38 am

It’s time to put the “NEW NHS” plan on ice and move on with fixing the schools in town that really need it.

DryAsABone February 4, 2022 at 10:57 am

Developing story–it is not just schools. The FBI is investigating the pier project up in New London. Nothing QUASI when it comes to corruption in this state.
The “authority” is not cooperating. Lamont was neck-deep in the Malloy inspired project.
The stink of corruption is overwhelming in this state.

Patrick Cooper February 4, 2022 at 2:09 pm

What’s the saying? Where there is smoke – there is fire?

Why is it that construction projects that involve Bob Duff always seem to connect construction firms with the reputation of being very, very generous doners to PAC’s? You know – like POKO and McClutchy.

Meanwhile, Harry ignores the current headlines of a looming downgrade to our credit rating – and calls from the taxpayers to stop the nonsense with the Bob Duff High project – say’s “nothing to see here folks”, move along. Simply confirms Hartford remains in control of Norwalk. Harry still can’t explain why he was for something no one knew about and no one wanted until Bob Duff told us we did.

No wonder Bob is quiet here – how embarrassing that Kosta picked THE lawyer who seems to love the bad-boy limelight, and who drinks our contempt for his work with lemon & 2 sugars. Norm – he who eagerly represents Alex Jones, Fotis Dulos, and the charming Qinxuan Pan – seems to gravitate to folks who are presumed guilty long before trial. And then are found guilty – only after Norm gets his blood money. American justice – everyone gets their day in court.

The question is – when the noose tightens – will Kosta sing? I see a plea deal down the line and a zip-lock on the proceedings. We can’t have Corrupticut exposed, now can we? What a list that would be.

David Osler February 4, 2022 at 3:35 pm

Can the FBI please investigate the entire State particularly the judicial branch it seems to be lacking oversight and the oversight of the prosecutor seems to be beyond the scope of the executive branch which I find highly troubling that a Justice and a prosecutor answer to the same people as far as keeping to their jobs that is terrifying. I do not understand why the governor cannot fire anyone in the executive branch or force a resignation at a minimum. I understand why judges are under the ospice of the legislature but why would prosecutors be aside from being affirmed

John C. Miller, Jr. February 4, 2022 at 6:24 pm

OMG, in spite of what the Mayor said about the project, does this mean that the state might not cover the promised 80% of the cost of the “Duff Mahal” on the corner of County Street and Strawberry Hill Avenue? If reading this makes you feel so dirty that you need to take a shower, you’re not alone.

DryAsABone February 5, 2022 at 11:16 am

Again…next door in Scamford:

“The reconstruction of Westhill is estimated to cost $258 million, according to the state’s Department of Administrative Services. The current 50-year-old structure has had a variety of problems, including water coming in from leaky roofs, windows, doorways and the exterior facade.”

The HS I attended was probably close to 100 years old. It’s still there.
The Hoover dam only cost $49 Million…
The politicans have FederalMoney Fever.

“In all, the city would be on the hook for roughly $540 million over 12 years, if the plan were to be implemented in full and all of the assumptions are met.”

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