State seeks to dismiss Kosta Diamantis grievance against Lamont officials
The state has filed a motion to dismiss the grievance filed by Konstantinos Diamantis, the former deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management still at the center of a federal investigation, that alleges mistreatment of his former boss Melissa McCaw by high-ranking members of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.
Diamantis was fired from his OPM position in October 2021 after administration officials learned that his daughter, Anastasia, had gotten a job with Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo’s office while Colangelo was pressing Diamantis to help secure raises for his staff.
In February, when state officials released the results of an internal investigation, they also revealed the existence of a federal grand jury probe into the state’s school construction grants overseen by Diamantis in his dual role as director of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review. The federal investigation is ongoing.
The 24-page grievance initially was filed in November 2021 on behalf of Diamantis and appealed on Jan. 19 to the state Employee Review Board.
It specifically named Joshua Geballe and Paul Mounds, two of Lamont’s top lieutenants, and alleged mistreatment of McCaw. Geballe has since left the administration for a job at Yale University, and McCaw also resigned as OPM Secretary to take a job in East Hartford.
Both the grievance and the documents filed to support it initially were sealed, but the CT Mirror obtained a copy of the complaint. It was not clear Tuesday if the original complaint was still sealed.
Last week, on the state Department of Administrative Services website, the state Employee Review Board listed a public hearing for the Diamantis grievance, scheduled to start June 20.
On Tuesday, OPM released a copy of the motion to dismiss the case that was filed by Adam Garelick, an attorney for the Office of Labor Relations, on June 6.
Diamantis’ attorney Zachary Reiland, who filed the initial grievance, said this week’s hearing was postponed because of the state’s new motion. He declined to comment on the state’s motion.
Diamantis and his lawyer have 30 days to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss, which likely now will be addressed in September, Reiland said.
In the motion to dismiss, Garelick argued that the board should dismiss Diamantis’ grievance without a hearing because the board lacks jurisdiction to hear his appeal.
Among other things, the motion claims, Diamantis did not resign in good standing — a requirement for reinstating an employee who resigned — because he resigned while disciplinary action was pending and did not give two weeks’ notice, according to the motion.
Further, the motion argues, Diamantis did not meet the requirements to appeal to the Employee Review Board, which include receiving an unsatisfactory performance evaluation.
Garelick’s motion states that Diamantis “advances a plethora of wide-ranging and contradictory accusations against the state.”
It states that Diamantis’ main claim, that Geballe improperly denied his request to rescind his retirement, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
“The Grievant did not resign in good standing and had no right to rescind his resignation,” Garelick wrote.
Diamantis has said his removal was the consequence of a long-simmering power struggle between top Lamont aides and the Office of Policy and Management, one of the most influential state agencies by tradition and statutory authority.
Grudges and Zoom calls
Documents obtained by the CT Mirror show that Diamantis’ grievance already had been denied in two other closed sessions, before a DAS human resources officer and an arbitrator. The Employee Review Board is his last outlet under his state contract.
In his grievance, Diamantis alleges that Geballe and Mounds held a grudge against him for speaking out about the way they and other commissioners treated McCaw. (Geballe’s mother, Shelley Geballe, a lawyer and professor of public health at Yale, is a founding board member of the nonprofit Connecticut News Project Inc., operator of CTMirror.org.)
Diamantis describes secretly listening, at McCaw’s request, to Zoom meetings with other commissioners and state officials so he could “witness the treatment she was receiving.”
The grievance describes another Zoom meeting among state commissioners where McCaw addressed an unnamed commissioner’s “abusive and disrespectful behavior toward the Secretary” and charged it “was rooted in racial discrimination/animus.”
“The secretary respectfully expressed her discomfort with the treatment and requested that greater attention be given toward tone and professionalism in order to avoid making fellow employees uncomfortable,” the grievance states.
The same day Diamantis was removed from the politically appointed OPM position, he was suspended with pay from his civil-service job overseeing school construction grants. Rather than accept the suspension, Diamantis retired.
But within hours of doing so, he tried to rescind his retirement. Geballe denied his request, according to the grievance, saying that Diamantis hadn’t resigned in “good standing.”
The grievance also states that Geballe refused to rescind the retirement because of Diamantis’ “unprofessional conduct,” specifically citing two “inappropriate text messages” Diamantis sent on the evening of Oct. 28.
The first, to Mounds, read, “I’m coming / The truth is coming / Liars will come forward / Racists too.”
Minutes later, he sent a text to Geballe that read: “I hate liars and racists.”
Kosta’s last day
Diamantis’ initial complaint goes into detail about his last day as a state employee: Oct. 28, 2021.
Diamantis said he was at the UConn Health Center with his gravely ill mother when McCaw called and asked him to come to her office. When he arrived, McCaw informed him that he was immediately terminated from his appointed position as OPM’s deputy secretary and that he was being placed on paid administrative leave from his classified position as director of the Office of School Construction Grants pending an internal investigation.
Diamantis had held the dual positions for nearly two years.
McCaw told him that the misconduct investigation pertained to his daughter’s hiring as an executive assistant to the chief state’s attorney and that it was an “improper quid pro quo” arrangement, in which the chief state’s attorney would receive approval of a beneficial salary action by OPM and his daughter would receive the executive assistant position.
Diamantis claims the combination of his mother’s illness, the accusations made against him and his potential termination left him distraught and emotionally compromised.
An hour later, he met with OPM’s human resources officer to discuss which retirement benefits and possible payouts he would be owed depending on whether he retired or was fired.
At the same time Diamantis was reviewing his retirement papers, he received a letter from Lamont informing him he was relieved of his appointment at OPM. Diamantis then signed a letter of resignation and his retirement papers, according to the complaint.
The grievance said the decision to resign “cannot be separated from the surrounding circumstances. He was distraught, confused and overwhelmed by the fact that his 25 years of public service had inexplicably unraveled in less than two hours.”
Three hours later, Diamantis asked OPM’s human resource director if he could rescind his resignation and submitted a letter to OPM officials asking to do so.
The next day, OPM officials asked Diamantis to come to headquarters and sign more documents, even though he was trying to rescind his resignation, the grievance states.
But that same day, Geballe denied his request to rescind his resignation, claiming that under state statutes Diamantis was not an “employee in good standing” and therefore wouldn’t be rehired.
Geballe also cited Diamantis’ “unprofessional behavior” from the day before in sending the inappropriate texts to Mounds and himself.