Politics

Former Connecticut budget official arrested, pleads not guilty to bribery and extortion charges

A former top official in Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget office who played a key role in school construction grants and offshore wind projects was arrested Thursday morning and later pleaded not guilty to extortion, bribery, conspiracy and false statement charges in an alleged scheme involving contractors.

Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis, a former state representative and a lawyer, appeared in federal court in Hartford in the afternoon, pleaded not guilty to 22 charges and was released on $500,000 bail. He has denied any wrongdoing.

U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery and officials with the FBI and IRS allege Diamantis demanded and received thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors from 2018 to 2021, in exchange for helping the companies obtain and maintain contracts for work on multimillion-dollar, state-funded school construction projects.

Federal authorities on Thursday also announced that three executives with two contractors pleaded guilty earlier in the week to conspiring to bribe Diamantis.

“Constructing and renovating schools is an important, and very expensive, endeavor for our state and municipalities, and corruption within a program that manages and funds them adds cost, seriously erodes trust in government, and raises questions about work quality and the potential harms to students and educators in the classroom,” Avery said in a statement.

Diamantis, of Farmington, a former deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, resigned in October 2021 on the same day he was placed on paid administrative pending a misconduct investigation, according to a letter from the state's personnel office.

Diamantis and his lawyer, Vincent Provenzano, declined to comment on the allegations while leaving the courthouse. Diamantis has previously said he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“We just got the indictment,” Provenzano said.

Lamont's office issued a statement saying the governor took steps in 2021 to remove Diamantis from his government jobs when “allegations of ethical improprieties surfaced.” Lamont, a Democrat, also ordered an independent review of the school construction grant program and several reforms were made.

“The governor has been clear that he has zero tolerance for malfeasance and corruption in government,” the statement said.

In March 2022, state officials received a federal grand jury subpoena seeking electronic communications dating to Jan. 1, 2018, involving 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.

Oversight of school construction grants was originally handled by the Department of Administrative Services before moving to the Office of Policy and Management when Diamantis moved from one agency to the next. It’s now handled by the Department of Administrative Services again.

According to an indictment unsealed Thursday, the alleged bribes and extortion were related to construction work at Weaver High School and Bulkeley High School in Hartford, Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland and school construction projects in New Britain.

Diamantis also is accused of making multiple false statements to FBI investigators.

Diamantis, a state representative for parts of Bristol from 1993 to 2005, submitted his retirement paperwork when he resigned. He is now earning a $72,514 a year from a state pension, according to state records.

He was suspended and then resigned about a month after a Hartford Courant columnist wrote about Diamantis' daughter being hired for a $99,000-a-year position in the Division of Criminal Justice "without any evident competition."

Connecticut's former top prosecutor, Richard Colangelo Jr., later retired as a state oversight commission considered whether to hold termination hearings on his decision to hire Diamantis' daughter while pressing Diamantis for pay raises for high-ranking state's attorneys. Colangelo denied any wrongdoing.

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Associated Press Writers Dave Collins and Pat Eaton Robb contributed to this report.

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