Birch Grove Elementary School in Tolland, under renovations. Map data ©2022 Google

Just days after state officials canceled a contract that provided more than $29 million in hazardous waste projects to a select list of four companies, they released new guidelines Wednesday that sharply limit when municipalities can make use of the process for school construction.

Two companies named in a federal grand jury subpoena investigating former state official Konstantinos Diamantis were the primary beneficiaries of that contract before it was canceled, records show.

Diamantis’ team was in charge of the contract, which was initially supposed to be limited to emergency work, state officials have said.

The grand jury investigation has raised questions about whether Diamantis pressured municipalities to hire specific contractors, construction managers and hazardous waste and asbestos removal companies.

The guidance released Wednesday from the state Department of Administrative Services places restrictions on when towns can hire the companies on the state’s approved list. They can now only be used for minor rehabilitation projects that cost less than $500,000 and “emergency projects,” defined as work that needs to begin within 24 hours. Demolition projects are explicitly excluded from the contract.

“DAS has clarified with other towns through, for example, conversations, website updates, contract updates and more to ensure towns have accurate information about the school construction grants process,” DAS spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said.

The original DAS contract, “16PSX0110,” was designed to be an on-call emergency list for towns to use for hazardous waste abatement ranging from asbestos removal to mold remediation in state buildings.

But under Diamantis, the former deputy secretary at the state Office of Policy and Management, many municipalities started using the list to bid for hazardous waste removal and demolition on school construction projects. 

Diamantis also ran the Office of School Construction Grants & Review — first at DAS and then at the Office of Police and Management — until late October, when he was fired from his OPM job and retired from the OSCGR position.

Asbestos Abatement and Insulation Services (AAIS) Corporation of West Haven and Bestech Inc. of Ellington got all but 15 of the 284 purchase orders issued by the state for hazardous waste disposal and demolition from fiscal year 2017 through 2022 — contracts that are paid for by the state and not tied to school construction jobs.

Diamantis was in charge of the roughly 20-member OSCGR team, which approved school construction projects. In October, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena seeking Diamantis’ emails and text messages from January 2018 through October 2021.

They later sent DAS a list of search words that included several construction management companies and general contractors who have been awarded school contracts in the last four years. Among the search words were AAIS and Bestech.

Local officials from Groton to Bristol have said that Diamantis or Michael Sanders, a member of the OSCGR team that specialized in asbestos abatement, pressured them to give contracts to either AAIS or Bestech rather than to companies not on the state list.

Sanders died suddenly in December in Old Saybrook. The state medical examiner has ruled his death an accidental drug overdose.

The new contract, “20psx0154,” was put into place after New Haven attorney Raymond Garcia, on behalf of his client Stamford Wrecking Co., complained to several state officials, including Attorney General William Tong, that Diamantis and his team were improperly using the so-called emergency contract list for school construction jobs.

The discussions among Garcia and state officials, including Diamantis and Assistant Attorney General Margaret Chapple, led to the issuing of a new directive to municipalities on March 2, 2021.

The directive, signed by Diamantis, clarified when municipalities should use the state’s hazardous materials abatement contractors list for their school projects.

The directive states that if municipalities planned to use one of the companies on the so-called emergency contractor list, they needed to solicit a minimum of four bid proposals in order to be eligible to get state funding.

Anderson said the new guidance issued Wednesday replaces that directive.

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Dave does in-depth investigative reporting for CT Mirror. His work focuses on government accountability including financial oversight, abuse of power, corruption, safety monitoring, and compliance with law. Before joining CT Mirror Altimari spent 23 years at the Hartford Courant breaking some of the state’s biggest, most impactful investigative stories.