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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    Grand jury probe into Conn.’s school construction program continuing

    A federal grand jury’s investigation into how contracts were awarded through the state’s school construction grant program has quietly continued in recent months, with four detailed subpoenas issued this year — two as recently as October.

    The subpoenas, as well as two previously undisclosed from 2022, seek phone records, emails and calendar entries of as many as 16 state employees, according to the attorney who reviews Freedom of Information Act requests concerning subpoenas.

    All names in the subpoenas are redacted, except for Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis, the former state representative who became the head of the state’s school construction program and a deputy secretary at the Office of Policy and Management. Diamantis retired in late 2021.

    Diamantis declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Gov. Ned Lamont’s office also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney David Novick told attorney Morgan Rueckert, hired by the state to review all subpoenas, that some details should be redacted so as not to “frustrate the federal investigation by alerting the targets of the investigation to a more complete picture of the nature of the probe, the techniques employed, the identities of witnesses, and the evidence developed to date.”

    “We identified a very limited amount of information for redaction which, if disclosed, would cause ‘prejudice to a prospective law enforcement action,’” Novick wrote.

    The materials sought in the subpoenas suggest that the grand jury has made progress in its investigation. For example, it asked for communications between two unidentified parties for one specific day: May 12, 2020.

    The most recent subpoena, issued on Oct. 4, 2023, sought all available records of incoming and outgoing calls to/from the office telephone numbers for four state employees, including Diamantis, from Jan. 1, 2020, through May 31, 2020.

    A separate subpoena issued on June 28 seeks all of Diamantis’ emails for that same time period.

    That same subpoena also seeks all communications from an unnamed state employee containing the words “Kosta,” “Konstantinos” or “Diamantis.”

    Diamantis led the state’s school construction grant program for more than six years, but he retired in October 2021 after Lamont placed him on paid administrative leave in conjunction with an investigation into his daughter’s hiring at the state Division of Criminal Justice.

    Diamantis was fired from his other position as deputy commissioner at the Office of Policy and Management the same day.

    The state was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury around the same time for records related to Diamantis and several state-financed projects, including school construction grants and the State Pier in New London.

    The focus of the initial subpoena was a school project in Tolland in which D’Amato Construction of Bristol was awarded a no-bid contract.

    Tolland school officials said Diamantis pushed them to hire a construction management company that later hired his daughter Anastasia.

    Tolland officials hired Construction Advocacy Professionals, or CAP, based in Plainfield, to first oversee installation of portable classrooms at the Birch Grove Primary School on June 20, 2019, according to contracts obtained by The Connecticut Mirror. They were paid $70,000 for the work.

    Then, in July 2019, CAP hired Diamantis’ daughter Anastasia, documents state.

    Weeks later, a contract amendment, giving CAP another $460,000 worth of work, was signed on Sept. 18, 2019 for the construction of a new Birch Grove school. The old school needed to be replaced immediately because the foundation was crumbling.

    The CT Mirror also published a story in February 2022 that showed Diamantis and another state employee, Michael Sanders, pressured Groton and Bristol to hire two specific contractors to deal with hazardous material at their schools.

    The subpoenas show federal prosecutors asked the state for records related to those two school projects, and several others, a few days later.

    Other school projects that the grand jury subpoenaed records for include the Platt Technical High School in Milford, the Bulkeley High School or Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Hartford, New Britain High School and Birch Grove Elementary in Tolland.

    Officials in New London also told the CT Mirror that they felt pressured into hiring one of the same contractors, AAIS Corp. of West Haven, to perform work on the city’s new high school project.

    Altogether, at least five municipalities received federal subpoenas requesting documents tied to their school construction projects.

    AAIS Corp. was one of two companies that got nearly all of the hazardous waste removal contracts through a state contract that was run by Michael Sanders, who worked for Diamantis under OSCGR.

    The contract was originally supposed to only be for emergency hazardous waste removal jobs at state buildings but was quickly expanded to include municipal school projects.

    The CT Mirror also reported that two of the state’s hazmat contractors — AAIS Corp. and Bestech Inc. — netted nearly all of the $29.2 million that was spent from the state hazmat fund between 2017 and 2022.

    AAIS Vice President Glen Mulrenan said his company “was awarded contracts with the state because we provided high quality work at reasonable prices and every review by the state has confirmed that.”

    “In fact, since our contract was dropped, the state has paid significantly more for the same services at additional cost to taxpayers. We stand by our bids and our work, and we look forward to continuing our service to the state of Connecticut,” Mulrenan said.

    DAS officials responded to that story by immediately canceling the state contract through which the companies were paid, and the state agency sought to expand the list of contractors who were eligible to perform hazmat cleanup work on state-owned buildings.

    daltimari@ctmirror.org

    abrown@ctmirror.org

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