A hearing of a state personnel panel ended Monday without a decision whether to take up a grievance by Kosta Diamantis, an embattled former state official who resigned from at least one of his positions last year.
Diamantis, a former lawmaker, served as both the deputy secretary for Connecticut’s chief budgetary agency and the administrator of the state’s school construction office. Former Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw relieved him of his appointed position as deputy secretary at OPM. He was put on leave from his classified position with the Department of Administrative Services.
The case before the board hinges on whether Diamantis maintains a right to appeal to the panel despite having resigned from his position. Zachary Reiland, his lawyer, argued his client tried to withdraw his resignation just three hours after submitting it and should have been permitted to do so.
The state has maintained that had Diamantis given two weeks notice, then former DAS Commissioner Josh Geballe would have been able to reconsider the resignation. However, Reiland said that it was McCaw — and not Geballe — who was Diamantis’s appointing authority.
Reiland told the panel that Geballe created confrontation and unbearable working conditions in an effort to force Diamantis to resign. Reiland called it a “trap.”
“The trap was set and they got what they wanted, which was him to retire and for them to be able to shut him out by claiming he no longer has recompense in this court. They shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” Reiland said. “So for the state to say that it’s Mr. Diamantis’ decision to retire, that he did it of his own volition, that is contrary to what Mr. Diamantis is claiming here.”
Adam Garelick, an labor relations attorney with the state, argued that Diamantis resigned in the face of disciplinary action and was not entitled to receive his job back.
“The legal question here is whether Diamantis voluntarily resigned from a classified position and has a right to reinstatement to that position,” Garelick said. “He has no right to reinstatement after he tendered the resignation.”
At the time, Diamantis became embroiled in two scandals. One involved his daughter’s hiring by former state’s attorney Richard Colangelo, who was lobbying OPM for raises for himself and other lawyers in his office, and the other resulted from a federal investigation into school construction grants overseen by Diamantis.
The board, tasked with deciding whether it had jurisdiction to hear Diamantis’ claim, declined to make a decision because not enough members of the panel were in attendance. Those absent are expected to review the transcript before the board makes a determination.
Throughout the hearing, Reiland suggested Diamantis was punished due to his willingness to stand up for McCaw and others in the face of hostilities from members of the governor’s office.
“What happened when Mr. Diamantis didn’t toe the company line? He was demonized in the press. He was flat-out lied about and turned into the face of dirty government. All the sudden, he’s stolen a billion dollars from Connecticut taxpayers,” Reiland said.
Garelick, meanwhile, argued Diamantis was asking the review board to ignore the law by ignoring his resignation in order to hear his appeal.
“The statute .. says ‘any employee may bring an appeal.’ It doesn’t say any former employee or all employees who have ever worked for the state. It says any employee and, you know, words also have meaning when Mr. Diamantis wrote he resigns ‘effective immediately,’” Garelick said. “That has meaning. He chose to put that on paper. And so too does [the law] have meaning when it says that a resignation is valid upon submission.”
Matthew Borrelli, one of the ERB members hearing the case, said if Diamantis had brought this case when he was still employed it would be a case the ERB would want to hear. The board only has the ability to consider the motion to dismiss and is not accepting any evidence in the case.
“If you would’ve brought this case while he was an employee being harassed, I believe that would have been a legitimate case for the ERB to hear. The question today is, does he have the right as a resigned person to hear the case,” Borrelli said.
Diamantis is still collecting a $5,800 per month pension.