Public service is thankless, and nowhere so much so as in Hartford, where good men and women go to battle ceaselessly over crumbs. Rarely do people ascend the political heights that Hartford has to offer to enhance their reputations – what has that anthill to offer? But good men’s reputations are ruined there.
Ask Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo, now accused in various newspapers around the state of nepotism, corruption and dereliction of duty. His bosses at the Criminal Justice Commission are said to be researching how to force him from office. The governor has made it clear that Mr. Colangelo ought to go. Dwarves wearing faux shark fins on their backs wade in cesspools hoping for ascension.
Why? Because a trial brief masquerading as a fact-finder’s report concluded that Mr. Colangelo wasn’t candid when he couldn’t recall dates of various meetings.
The report’s author, former federal prosecutor Stanley Twardy, opined that Mr. Colangelo was a liar. Well, case closed then. We can’t have a liar atop the state’s prosecutorial pyramid.
I read Mr. Twardy’s 40-plus page fact-finding report with a dawning sense of familiarity. This was not report to others about what facts were and were not available on which to make a decision. It read like a post-trial brief, an advocate’s argument on the case he or she wanted to make.
At issue was determining the circumstances under which Mr. Colangelo offered a young woman a job. Did he do so as part of an effort to influence her father, Konstantinos Diamantis, to use his influence in state government to approve raises for non-unionized prosecutors? (I represent Mr. Diamantis in this matter.)
Reading Mr. Twardy’s report sure makes it look that way. After all, the record is not entirely clear when Mr. Colangelo met the young woman. Was it at a May 2020 soiree at a restaurant? Mr. Twardy accuses Mr. Colangelo of changing his tune when confronted with the statements of others about the meeting. I’d like to see a transcript of the interview with Mr. Colangelo. Sometimes recollections are refreshed with additional information. What sort of humorless prick keeps a calendar recording every social engagement?
And just why was Mr. Twardy, a so-called independent investigator, accompanied at several key interviews by the governor’s lawyer, another former federal prosecutor named Nora Danahey? Facts are discovered after honest inquiry; advocates burnish the record, and nudge in the direction of inferences favorable to their side. Ms. Danahey’s attendance at interviews calls into question the independence of the process.
And just who is the anonymous prosecutor whose notes were given to Mr. Twardy, and to which Mr. Twardy’s report makes copious reference? Think about it for a moment. Prosecutors have a duty to see to it that justice is done. Are we really to believe that a senior state’s attorney attended meetings in which dirty deeds were done, and kept silent about it? If Mr. Colangelo is to offer his scalp, then, I suggest, another head is required.
One would be forgiven the impression that a rival of Mr. Colangelo’s lay in wait, scribbling notes about all he or she saw or heard, saving these nuggets for the express purpose of some day appearing with the hypocrite’s leer – “What a good boy – or girl – am I?” Don’t drink from the water coolers in the Chief State’s Attorney’s office – quislings poison them.
Why keep your star witness under wraps in your trial brief, Mr. Twardy? Is it that should the source be known, insiders would conclude, immediately, that there are serious credibility issues about the witness?
I get it. The appearance of impropriety matters. Mr. Colangelo has been to look like he offered a job to the daughter of a man for the most venal of reasons – a raise. Savvy prosecutors should know better than to even appear to be in such a situation. Mr. Colangelo’s predecessor, Kevin Kane, would never have found himself in such a position.
I’ve studied the record. Here’s what I know.
He was a new chief state’s attorney.
The non-unionized members of his division had not received wages to keep pace with their unionized subordinates. As a result, there was an asymmetry in the pay scales. Some junior prosecutors were making more – are making more – than their bosses. Mr. Colangelo wanted to correct that. Mr. Colangelo was a newcomer in Hartford. He worked the administrative back offices trying to figure out how to get these raises. He was also new to statewide office. He traveled throughout the state to plead his division’s case and to expand the influence he could bring to bear on behalf of prosecutors statewide. This is all appropriate.
Along the way, he met a young woman to whom he offered a position he was free to offer – executive assistants are unclassified positions. There are no civil service requirements for the job. That woman was the daughter of an official who could help him get the raises he sought.
It’s a long way from this fact-pattern to nepotism and quid pro quo corruption.
But appearances matter, and someone, I suspect the anonymous author of the notes relied on by Mr. Twardy, called a newspaper columnist. That columnist thought he had Deep Throat on the line, and decided he was the Nutmeg State’s very own Bob Woodward.
Scandal. Corruption. The Fourth Estate saving the republic.
Except it wasn’t in this case. It was the sort of tedious swill that breaks good men and women in Hartford.
Governor Ned Lamont’s initial press release got it right: This was a tempest in a tea pot and should have been dealt with by means of minor policy changes. But then came news of a federal grand jury looking perhaps too closely in the direction of the Lamont administration. Within 24 hours, the governor was calling for Mr. Colangelo’s head, perhaps hoping that a scapegoat would deflect attention.
Odds are we’ve lost Mr. Colangelo. I’m betting he resigns before the Criminal Justice Commission convenes a hearing. That’s too bad. I’d like to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth come out. I’d like to see the trial brief on behalf of Mr. Colangelo, the one written without the influence of the governor’s lawyer.
Good men go to die ignominious deaths in Hartford. And for what?