Investigation casts doubt on integrity of lead prosecutor’s hiring

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – An independent investigation released Wednesday questioned the “integrity” of Connecticut’s chief prosecutor who hired the daughter of a state budget official in 2020 while pushing for pay raises for staff, prompting Governor Ned Lamont to escalate the findings to state ethics and criminal justice officials for possible further action.

The report says Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr., former high-ranking budget official Konstantinos Diamantis and his daughter, Anastasia Diamantis, gave conflicting testimony to investigators during certain questions that “put question the integrity of the circumstances surrounding Anastasia’s hiring.”

Colangelo denied there was an improper motive and Konstantinos Diamantis said Colangelo’s requests for a pay rise were denied while he was in the Office of Policy and Management. But the report by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy Jr. said “several (Criminal Justice) Division officials confirmed they expressed concerns to Mr. Colangelo in June 2020 that the Anastasia’s hiring by the division had created at least an appearance of conflict”.

Lamont said he was “disturbed” by the findings and referred the report to the state Ethics Office and the Criminal Justice Commission, which oversees state prosecutors, to determine what action to take. , if applicable.

“I wanted this independent investigation to be conducted because the people of Connecticut deserve transparency and accountability from their government,” Lamont said in a statement. “It is essential that all public officials understand and follow the ethics laws of the state.”

The report draws factual conclusions about the events leading up to and following the hiring of Anastasia Diamantis as Colangelo’s executive assistant with a starting salary of $99,000 effective July 3, 2020.

The governor’s office, however, has not released a separate legal analysis with the recommendations it received from Twardy. A Lamont spokesperson said the analysis was provided verbally.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, who heads the Criminal Justice Commission, said he hadn’t had time to review the voluminous report, which includes more than 500 pages of findings and supporting documents. He said after the commission completes the review, it will work with the attorney general’s office to determine if any laws, rules or policies have been violated and what further action, if any, should be taken.

Lamont also directed his legal office to work with ethics officers to develop and deliver ethics training within the next 90 days to all political appointees in the executive branch, focusing on conflicts of interest and misuse of office. He also asked the Criminal Justice Commission to submit recommendations on policy changes and other actions in response to the report.

Colangelo said in a statement that he would not comment on the report until he finished reviewing it.

Konstantinos Diamantis, former deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, submitted a resignation and retirement letter in October the same day he was placed on paid administrative leave as part of the hiring investigation of his daughter by Colangelo.

He said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that the investigation found no wrongdoing and nothing in the report raised any red flags about his daughter’s hiring, noting that “the Chief State Prosecutor may engage by law and the constitution any person he chooses to carry out his mission”. . It’s his choice. »

Diamantis said that while he was in the Office of Policy and Management, Colangelo’s salary increase requests were denied on different occasions.

“If this is the truth, the truth is no quibble, we have denied Rich’s claims,” ​​he said. “The State Attorney General was just a gentleman and fought on behalf of his people, that’s what his job is all about. And the only thing he asks for is time to meet with the secretary, who is the ultimate decision maker, to understand what his demands were. But as early as October 28, which was my last day, they were refused.

A message seeking comment was left for Anastasia Diamantis.

Colangelo, who was appointed in February 2020, continued his push for pay raises for the chief state attorney and other non-union positions also held by his predecessor, Kevin Kane. They cited perceived pay inequities between non-unionized staff and unionized prosecutors.

Colangelo’s effort included numerous emails to Office of Policy and Management officials, including Konstantinos Diamantis and OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw, before and after hiring Anastasia Konstantinos.

Twardy’s report says there is no evidence that the executive assistant position was created specifically for Anastasia Diamantis. He clarified, however, that no one else had been interviewed for the position and Colangelo offered it to him on the spot during the interview.

About a month before Anastasia Diamantis was hired, Colangelo sent her father an email with the subject “info” that included descriptions of two open jobs in Colangelo’s office. Konstantinos Diamantis then forwarded the email to his daughter. The email contained no context to inform Konstantinos Diamantis of the jobs, according to the investigation report.

Colangelo and Konstantinos Diamantis told investigators they never discussed employment opportunities for Anastasia Diamantis.

“However, the fact that Mr. Diamantis forwarded the email to Anastasia despite the absence of a message in the body of Mr. Colangelo’s email urging him to do so suggests that Mr. Colangelo and Mr. Diamantis had discussed a job for Anastasia,” the report states.

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