Kosta Diamantis, the state’s second-highest budget official and a former state representative, resigned Thursday after the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont placed him on paid leave over an allegation of unspecified misconduct.
Diamantis denied any wrongdoing and said his removal was the consequence of a long-simmering power struggle between top Lamont aides and the Office of Policy and Management, where Diamantis was the deputy secretary.
In a telephone interview Thursday night, Diamantis spoke with vehemence about the governor’s top aides: Paul Mounds, the chief of staff; Josh Geballe, the chief operating officer; and Nora Dannehy, the general counsel.
“The bottom line is they’re looking to put the rest of us down, as if they know government better, and they don’t. They don’t have a clue about government,” he said.
Diamantis said the governor’s staff had been disrespectful to his boss, Secretary Melissa McCaw, who is Black. He described a tense relationship between the governor’s office and OPM. McCaw could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
A pretext for his removal were questions about the $99,000-a-year state job recently obtained by his daughter, Diamantis said.
Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director, said the administration would not respond to Diamantis’ claims or answer questions about the nature of the allegation against him.
Instead, Reiss issued a brief written statement: “The Governor’s Office removed Mr. Diamantis because of a personnel matter that is still under review.”
Reiss provided copies of two letters sent Thursday to Diamantis; one from Mounds removing him as deputy secretary, then another from a human resources officer acknowledging his decision to resign and retire, rather than await the outcome of a review.
Neither offered specifics of any misconduct. But the one from Theresa Judge, the human resources officer, indicated that McCaw neither initiated the removal nor was aware of a pending investigation of her deputy.
“Secretary McCaw was informed today of the pending review into your alleged misconduct,” Judge wrote. “Subsequent to her notification she has made us aware of your decision to retire from State Service, effective Monday, November 1, 2021. Therefore, your paid administrative leave status will conclude on October 31, 2021.”
An Oct. 1 column in The Hartford Courant by Kevin Rennie raised questions about the hiring of Diamantis’ daughter, Anastasia, as an executive assistant to the chief state’s attorney, Richard Colangelo. She had been in a classified job at a lower salary.
“Executive assistant positions must be approved by OPM, where Anastasia Diamantis’s father has become an unusually influential second in command to budget chief Melissa McCaw,” Rennie wrote.
Rennie, a former Republican lawmaker, reported that Colangelo’s office refused to say who requested the creation of Anastasia Diamantis’s position or who at OPM approved the salary. Kosta Diamantis, who was not quoted in Rennie’s column, said OPM does not approve salaries in the Department of Criminal Justice.
Diamantis, of Farmington, is a lawyer and Democrat who represented Bristol in the state House of Representatives. He was hired by the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2015 to a post in the Department of Administrative Services overseeing state grants for school construction. Lamont was elected in 2018 and took office in January 2019.
When McCaw hired him in November 2019 as her deputy, he took the grants oversight responsibilities with him to OPM.