A beleaguered Lamont official seeks a new job after quitting; Kosta Diamantis collects his pension – Hartford Courant

Kosta Diamantis, a beleaguered former state lawmaker who was fired last year by Gov. Ned Lamont when he was deputy state budget director, tried to get his job back Monday in a disputed hearing .

State officials held the hearing into a grievance Diamantis filed last year after he resigned from a classified state employee position, then abruptly sought to withdraw his resignation just three hours later . This request was blocked, leading to the hearing almost a year later.

No decision was made on Monday because one of the council members was absent and must read the full transcript before voting on the matter. Three of the five board members are required to hold a vote.

Diamantis essentially held two jobs at the same time – the budget position he was fired from and a civil servant position in the Department of State Administrative Services, where he originally oversaw the school construction projects of the State. State.

Diamantis made headlines last year after Chief State Attorney Richard Colangelo hired Diamantis’ daughter for a state job paying $99,000 a year as an executive assistant. just as Colangelo was seeking raises for himself and his fellow prosecutors. Diamantis himself was making nearly $200,000 a year when he was fired eight days after the state received a subpoena from a federal grand jury as the FBI investigates how the contracts were made. awarded under the school construction program overseen by Diamantis.

The long-running clash has gone almost completely silent in recent months as the FBI continues the behind-the-scenes investigation of the school construction program.

Diamantis, who was fired in October 2021, filed the 24-page grievance in November. The case was then referred in January to the Department of Administrative Services State Employees Review Board, which held the hearing on Monday. The hearing focused on the state’s motion to dismiss the appeal, and the arguments centered on whether counsel had jurisdiction over the matter.

Diamantis attended the Zoom meeting which lasted over an hour, but did not speak to the board.

Adam Garelick, an attorney with the state’s Office of Labor Relations, said Diamantis was not entitled to reinstatement and asked that his suit be dismissed. He is currently collecting a pension after 30 years of service in the state, including as a Democratic legislator.

“A state employee has no right to be reinstated after submitting their resignation,” Garelick told the board. “Mr. Diamantis collected a pension check for over $5,800 a month. … They have no right to cancel.”

Garelick said Diamantis should not be reinstated because “he resigned while disciplinary action was pending” and failed to provide the required minimum two-week notice.

When placed on administrative leave from the classified position, Diamantis submitted a letter of resignation, effective immediately, on October 28, 2021. He then attempted to rescind his resignation approximately three hours later, but it did not. not been granted. DAS Commissioner Josh Geballe, a close Lamont ally, denied that request, but Diamantis wanted state budget director Melissa McCaw to consider the request for reinstatement, Garelick said.

“He’s asking the ERB to find an absolute right to reinstatement,” Garelick told the board. “Mr. Diamantis did not resign in good standing. … Mr. Diamantis chose to resign after learning that an investigation was underway into the hiring of his daughter. … It is clear that disciplinary action was in progress at that time.

Garelick said the state denies Diamantis’ allegations he included in the detailed grievance that McCaw was abused, undermined and disrespected by his supervisors, but he added that these were irrelevant. for the issue of reinstatement.

“He says the state is trying to force him and silence him,” Garelick said. “No one is trying to silence Mr. Diamantis.”

Zachary E. Reiland, an attorney representing Diamantis, sought to have counsel hear all the details about his client. Others, however, said the question should focus only on whether Diamantis holds the right to be reinstated.

Diamantis accuses Geballe of “fostering a hostile work environment” in the Department of Administrative Services and “exceeding his authority” by refusing Diamantis’ request for reinstatement.

“Melissa McCaw should have been the person acting” on the request, Reiland said. “The reasons given for denying reinstatement cannot be completely arbitrary and malicious, which they were in this case.”

“Mr. Diamantis claims he was constructively removed from his post,’ Reiland said. This happened at a time when he was at his sick mother’s bedside…. The trap was set, and they got what they wanted, that is, he retired. and that they can exclude him by pretending that he has no more reward…. They should not be allowed to do that.’

He added: “The governor’s office…has opened a baseless investigation against Mr. Diamantis. … An investigation which so far has revealed no wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Diamantis. An investigation into a quid pro quo deal with the state attorney’s office for raises, and those raises they still haven’t gotten to this day. … The governor’s office is accountable to Mr. Diamantis, to the public.”

“He was demonized in the press. He was outright lied to and turned into the face of a dirty government,’ Reiland said. “He was the subject of a federal investigation led by an American attorney who happens to be married to the governor’s chief counsel.”

Garelick objected, saying any reference to the governor’s office was irrelevant to the hearing because they are not named in the case. Avon Board Member Victor Schoen, a labor attorney who was presiding over the hearing, said he agreed with the state’s attorney but allowed the attorney to proceed.

“Mr. Diamantis is asking for a constructive termination or constructive discharge,’ Reiland said. “An employer deliberately made conditions so bad they forced an employee to quit, and that’s what happened here … He was right in assuming that he was probably hours away from being fired from his classified post. … He is at the hospital bedside of his 90-year-old mother, and she is about to to have an operation. He gets called into the office, and he’s touched by it.”

Reiland said the state acted with astonishing speed in accepting Diamantis’ resignation.

“Was that the fastest processing of a retirement in state history?” Reiland asked. “The moment he discovered he would not be able to address the investigation,” he sought to rescind his resignation.

Garelick responded that only current employees — not former employees — can file complaints with the council.

“That’s not how it works,” Garelick said. “He loses the right to appeal any claims he makes here.”

Garelick said it is “intrinsically contradictory” that Diamantis complains about a hostile work environment, but then wants to get his job back and return to work.

“Mr. Diamantis was not forced to retire,” Garelick said. “The complaint, grievance and appeal must be dismissed. … He clearly acknowledged that he had resigned.”

Lamont’s office declined to comment, deferring comments from Garelick for the state Labor Relations Office. The Lamont campaign declined to comment.

Schoen ended the meeting after more than an hour. He said a decision would be made “in due course”, but not until the transcripts had been reviewed by a third council member who was not present on Monday.

Christopher Keating can be reached at ckeating@courant.com

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