© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Connecticut News

Connecticut top prosecutor to retire instead of face firing amid an ethics probe

Prosecutor-Ethics Probe
Tyler Sizemore
/
POOL Hearst Connecticut Media via AP
State prosecutor Richard Colangelo speaks during a hearing at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford, Conn., March 3, 2020. An independent investigation is questioning the "integrity" of Colangelo hiring a state budget official's daughter in 2020 while lobbying for pay raises for staff.

Connecticut’s top prosecutor decided to retire as a state oversight commission considered whether to hold termination hearings on Wednesday, following an investigation that questioned his hiring of a budget official’s daughter while pressing the official for pay raises for high-ranking state’s attorneys.

Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. will step down March 31 from the post that he has held since January 2020. The decision was announced as the Criminal Justice Commission, which has the sole authority to hire and fire prosecutors, met to discuss whether to start the process for potentially firing him. The hearings will not be held.

Colangelo, who denied wrongdoing, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In a letter to the commission, Colangelo listed his accomplishments as Connecticut's top law enforcement official, emphasized his devotion to public service and said he “vehemently” disagreed with many of the investigation's conclusions. He declined to comment further on the probe.

“I care too much about the Division to have the imbroglio over my efforts to ensure the very best are attracted to supervisory positions to detract from the important work of the Division,” he wrote, referring to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Commission members said Colangelo's decision to retire was the right thing to do, given the findings of the investigation by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy Jr.

“After reading the Twardy report, I found the conduct of the chief state’s attorney to be extremely disappointing and disturbing,” said commission member Scott Murphy, former New Britain state's attorney. “I’m pleased that he has chosen to retire. It was the right thing for the Division of Criminal Justice. If he had not made that decision, I am confident that this commission would have started proceedings to terminate the chief state’s attorney.”

State Supreme Court Associate Justice Andrew McDonald, chairperson of the commission, thanked Colangelo for both his service and “doing the right thing today under very difficult circumstances.”

The independent investigation ordered by Gov. Ned Lamont cast “doubt on the integrity” of Colangelo’s hiring of Anastasia Diamantis in 2020 as a $99,000-per-year executive assistant and said Colangelo’s account of how he first met her lacked credibility.

Lamont, a Democrat, said last week after releasing the investigation report that he would fire Colangelo if it was up to him.

Diamantis’ father, Konstantinos Diamantis, also has denied wrongdoing. He said that while he was in office, Colangelo never got the pay raises he sought.

At the time of the hiring of Anastasia Diamantis, Colangelo was lobbying officials at the Office of Policy and Management, including her father, for pay raises for himself and 15 other non-unionized prosecutors in the office. The prosecutors’ salaries were on track to be eclipsed by those of lower-level, unionized state’s attorneys. Colangelo’s predecessor, Kevin Kane, also had sought such pay increases.

Colangelo and Konstantinos Diamantis denied to investigators that they had discussed a job for Anastasia Diamantis before she was hired. But the investigation said there were emails showing they likely had talked about getting her a job in Colangelo’s office.

Anastasia Diamantis was the only person interviewed for the job, the investigation report said. State payroll records indicate she continues to work in the chief state’s attorney’s office. She has not returned messages seeking comment.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called on state lawmakers to “create real ethics and accountability mechanisms for State's Attorneys.”

“Whenever a powerful government official misbehaves, it is imperative for lawmakers to look at the systems that allowed that behavior to happen, and to take steps to prevent future harm," Claudine Fox, the ACLU chapter's public policy and advocacy director, said in a statement.

The Criminal Justice Commission on Wednesday also named an interim chief state's attorney effective April 1 — current Deputy Chief State's Attorney John Russotto.

Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis, a former Democratic state representative, was deputy secretary at OPM until he was placed on paid leave in October and the same day submitted a letter of resignation and retirement.

While the investigation report said he was placed on leave as a result of a preliminary probe into his daughter’s hiring, the discipline also came eight days after state officials received a federal grand jury subpoena for documents involving Konstantinos Diamantis and hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending.

It’s not clear exactly what the FBI is investigating. The subpoena seeks electronic communications dating to Jan. 1, 2018, involving Konstantinos Diamantis and the “planning, bidding, awarding and implementation” of school construction projects, upgrades at the state pier in New London, and hazardous material abatement projects.

Konstantinos Diamantis has said he believes he will be cleared of wrongdoing in that investigation.