Top Prosecutor to Retire, Not Face Firing, Amid Ethics Probe

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Connecticut’s top prosecutor decided to retire as a state oversight commission considered whether to hold termination hearings on Wednesday.

This follows 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 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 and said he “vehemently” disagreed with many of the investigation’s conclusions. He declined to comment further on the probe.

“Since I was appointed Chief State’s Attorney I have had one goal: to faithfully serve the people of the State of Connecticut,” Colangelo wrote. “I am comfortable that I have done that and the outpouring of support for me from prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges is both reaffirming and comforting.

“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 added, referring to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Because of Colangelo's intent to retire, the Criminal Justice Commission appointed John J. Russotto as acting Chief State's Attorney. His appointment will go into effect on March 31.

Russotto will fulfill the duties of Chief State's Attorney beginning April 1 until the commission appoints a successor to complete the five-year term Colangelo was reappointed to complete last year.

Russotto has served as Deputy Chief State's Attorney for Personnel, Finance and Administration since 2004, according to state officials.

“While the governor does not have any appointing authority over the position of the chief state’s attorney, he believes Mr. Colangelo’s actions today are the right thing to do," a spokesperson for Lamont said.

An 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, last week said he would fire Colangelo if it was up to him.

The chairman of the Criminal Justice Commission, state Supreme Court Associated Justice Andrew McDonald, said in a statement last week that the investigation’s findings were “quite startling and raise profoundly serious questions about whether the Chief State’s Attorney can continue to discharge the duties of the constitutional office he holds.”

Colangelo and Diamantis’ father, Konstantinos Diamantis, have denied wrongdoing. Konstantinos Diamantis 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 by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy Jr. 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.

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.

The Associated Press & NBC Connecticut
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