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    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    Director of controversial Conn. school construction grant program resigns

    The person hired to replace Konstantinos Diamantis to steer the state’s school construction grant program has resigned after barely four months on the job.

    Douglas Rogers resigned from his job as director of the Office of School Construction Grants & Review on March 13 in an email to the state Department of Administrative Services human resources department. The email didn’t give a reason for his sudden departure.

    “As of March 13, 2023, I resign my position as Director, School Construction Grants and Plan Review, DAS,” Rogers wrote.

    In an interview this week, Rogers said he couldn’t adjust to the slow pace of state government work.

    “I’ve been doing school construction for years, and I felt I was the right person for the job, but I just couldn’t get used to the state’s pace,” Rogers said. “I’m conditioned to move quickly, because time is money in construction, and I just couldn’t execute things in a timely manner.”

    Rogers cited the example of trying to fill at least two vacancies on the OSCGR team. Rogers said he conducted several interviews and selected possible candidates but they found other jobs before the state’s hiring process was finished.

    “If I had spent 10 years (in state employment) before taking this position, I would have been prepared for how slow things move,” Rogers said. “‘I just didn’t feel the work was being supported, so we mutually agreed I’d leave.”

    Rogers began his job at OSCGR on Oct. 31 and was earning about $150,000 a year, according to state records.

    He was hired after an extensive search to replace Diamantis, who was removed as the director in October 2021 after state officials were informed that a federal grand jury was investigating several school constructions projects.

    DAS spokesman John McKay said the agency “is currently evaluating the next steps to fill this role.”

    “The Office of School Construction Grants and Review continues to function as intended, and the office is being overseen by DAS Deputy Commissioner Darren Hobbs,” McKay said.

    While state officials had little to say about Rogers’ resignation, DAS Commissioner Michelle Gilman told legislators during her confirmation hearing in January that she was “really proud” to be working with him.

    She told lawmakers Rogers’ background made him a perfect person to lead the unit in the aftermath of Diamantis’ departure.

    “He has a background of working at CREC [Capitol Region Education Council] and also with other school districts on school construction facilities management as well as a military background, which we have enjoyed because there is not a lot of diversion from procedures and process in the military,” Gilman said.

    “He has been able to not only bring that vision to the school construction team but also a great deal of knowledge overseeing the OSCGR team in particular,” she added.

    Diamantis, once the state’s second-highest budget official and a former state representative, was hired in 2015 to lead the school construction grants office. He took the grants oversight responsibility with him when he was appointed deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management in 2019.

    OSCGR, which controls millions of dollars in state funding, has been in a state of flux since Oct. 28, 2021, the day Gov. Ned Lamont removed Diamantis from his appointed position as undersecretary of OPM and suspended him with pay from his position as the director of OSCGR. Diamantis resigned hours later that same day.

    The move to oust Diamantis came shortly after reports surfaced that his daughter had been hired by then-Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo’s office at the same time Colangelo was seeking Diamantis’ help in getting raises for state’s attorneys.

    State officials also at that time released grand jury subpoenas revealing the federal investigation into the school grant program that included construction projects in Enfield, Manchester and Tolland.

    After Diamantis was removed from OSCGR, Deputy DAS Commissioner Noel Petra was put in charge of the unit and tasked with helping to review previous school projects as well as approving grants for new ones.

    DAS hired an outside auditor to review all of the grants OSCGR had issued since 2018, which is the same time frame federal authorities began investigating the program and for which issued the grand jury subpoena.

    The 23-page report that was produced by Marcum LLP, an independent auditing firm, included an analysis of more than 111 school construction projects undertaken in Connecticut between 2018 and 2021.

    The state paid Marcum $240,000 for the audit, which was immediately criticized by some legislators because no local officials were interviewed, and it only conducted a review of internal files and did not interview anyone outside of DAS.

    Local officials from several towns alleged in the wake of the federal investigation that Diamantis pressured them to hire specific contractors for their school projects.

    Those allegations included contracts for construction administrators, general contractors and demolition and remediation companies.

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