Connecticut’s chief law enforcement officer, who at one time headed the massive investigation into the disappearance and death of Jennifer Dulos, retired Wednesday as a state commission sought his removal for his alleged role in an executive branch scandal.
Chief State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo Jr. could have potentially faced a hearing in front of the Criminal Justice Commission, but he retired before he might have been terminated over his involvement in what appears to be a quid pro quo hiring scheme in exchange for raises for himself and other state’s attorneys.
“After reading the report, we found the conduct of the chief state’s attorney extremely disappointing and disturbing,” said commission member Attorney Scott Murphy, a former New Britain State’s Attorney at the end of a one-hour meeting held Wednesday to start the process of terminating Colangelo. “We are pleased he has made this decision to retire. It is the right thing for the Division of Criminal Justice. If he had not chosen to retire, we are confident this commission would have moved to terminate him.”
Colangelo will be allowed to head the Division of Criminal Justice administratively until his retirement date of March 31, according to Commission Chair state Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald.
During that time Colangelo will not be allowed to prosecute or investigate cases, McDonald said.
In his five-page letter announcing his retirement, Colangelo listed his various accomplishments as Chief State’s Attorney including providing training for staff and new prosecutors, creating new positions, designing a Facebook page for cold cases and establishing a labor relations position to work with three bargaining units, Colangelo said.
“Since I was appointed Chief State’s Attorney I have had one goal: to faithfully serve the people of the state of Connecticut,” Colangelo said in the letter. “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.”
According to an independent investigation done by former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, Colangelo hired the daughter of Kosta Diamantis, the former Deputy Commissioner of the state Office of Policy and Management, as he was seeking raises from the agency for himself and 15 other high-level Division of Criminal Justice employees including 13 state’s attorneys.
As part of the investigation Twardy examined dozens of emails and other documents communicated between Kosta Diamantis, OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw, Colangelo and other state officials who at times questioned whether the raises were necessary to bring state’s attorneys pay to the level of unionized Division employees.
Colangelo told Twardy that he didn’t believe that Kostas Diamantis could get him the funding for the raises and that he had done nothing improper in the hiring of Diamantis’ daughter, the report said.
“However, those claims are contradicted by the magnitude of communications between Mr. Colangelo, Mr. Diamantis and Secretary McCaw concerning this issue, the reality that Mr. Diamantis was then the second highest ranking OPM official in the state, and the fact that the issue kept resurfacing at OPM despite repeated denials – the first being just weeks before Colangelo contacted Mr. Diamantis with job descriptions and then hired Anastasia just days later,” Twardy said.
Colangelo and his attorney James Glasser said they disagreed with the conclusions of the report. “The citizens of our state are, unfortunately, losing a dedicated public servant,” Glasser said in a letter to the commission that was submitted with Colangelo’s notice of retirement.
Kosta Diamantis retired in late October after the Lamont administration placed him on leave. At the time, an opinion piece in the Hartford Courant questioned the timing of his daughter’s hiring by Colangelo and the federal Department of Justice issued a subpoena seeking all documents related to school construction projects and a state pier construction project headed by Kosta Diamantis as the head of the Office of School Construction Grants and Reviews.
Lamont referred the report to the Criminal Justice Commission which appointed Colangelo in early 2020 to finish the term of retiring Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane. He was reappointed to a full term as Chief State’s Attorney in 2021. The commission was set to move on proceedings outlined in state law to terminate Colangelo Wednesday when he submitted his retirement.
Deputy Chief State’s Attorney John Russotto Will stand as acting Chief State’s Attorney until Colangelo will be replaced.
Colangelo has worked as a prosecutor for the Division of Criminal Justice since 1993. He was appointed the State’s Attorney of the Judicial District of Stamford and Norwalk in 2015. But he didn’t rise to statewide prominence until 2019 while investigating the disappearance and death of Jennifer Dulos, a New Canaan mother of five who went missing during a two-year contentious divorce and custody battle with her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos.
The investigation into the disappearance made national and international headlines as state and local police searched several locations in New York and Connecticut looking for the missing mother.
Jennifer Dulos is presumed dead by family and police. Her remains have not been found. Colangelo prosecuted Fotis Dulos, and his former girlfriend Michelle Troconis on tampering with evidence, hindering prosecution, conspiracy and murder charges in the case.
The search for Jennifer Dulos is believed to be the largest investigation in state history. Colangelo was appointed Chief State’s Attorney on Jan. 30, 2020 – the same day Fotis Dulos died following a suicide attempt two days before.
Colangelo continued to prosecute the conspiracy to commit murder charges filed against Troconis and Attorney Kent Mawhinney well into his first term as Chief State’s Attorney. Those cases are pending and now in the hands of Stamford and Norwalk State’s Attorney Paul Ferencek.
Colangelo is known as a fair prosecutor, said Attorney Norm Pattis who represented Fotis Dulos in the charges filed against him and is now representing Kosta Diamantis. “I’ve litigated cases against him for years and know him to be honest and a man of integrity,” Pattis said in a blog defending Colangelo’s decision to seek raises for his employees. “Bad optics aren’t criminal.”