Conn.’s top prosecutor to retire amid hiring scandal

Conn. Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. (Lori Mack/Connecticut Public)

Faced with being removed from office, Rich Colangelo — Connecticut’s top prosecutor — has informed the state’s Criminal Justice Commission that he will retire from the job March 31.

Commission member Scott Murphy said the panel planned to fire Colangelo had he not stepped down.

“We found the conduct of the chief state’s attorney to be both extremely disappointing and disturbing,” Murphy said. “If he had not chosen to retire, we are confident that this commission would have moved to terminate him.”

The move comes one week after an independent report was released by the governor’s office outlining the questionable circumstances of Colangelo hiring the daughter of the governor’s deputy budget secretary. That investigation completed by former U.S. District Attorney Stanley Twardy concluded that Colangelo’s statements to investigators were not credible.

Colangelo’s retirement letter focused on the mechanics of his departure: when he will leave and how he will hand off his caseload to other attorneys in his office. The letter from his attorney, however, maintained that Colangelo did nothing wrong.

John Russotto will become acting chief state’s attorney at the beginning of April.

The announcement came Wednesday as the Criminal Justice Commission was weighing Colangelo’s future.

The process to remove the state’s top prosecutor takes months and the chairman of the Criminal Justice Commission, Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, said the retirement speeds that up.

“I want to thank Mr. Colangelo for doing the right thing under very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont, whose deputy budget chief was wrapped up in the hiring scandal with the prosecutor, brought up the issue during his State of the State address before the General Assembly Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, what matters most in all of this is trust — trust in your law enforcement, trust in the courts and trust in your government. I will hold anyone accountable who breaches that trust, starting in my administration. I have zero tolerance for any ethical malfeasance. We hold ourselves to the highest standards. If you see something, say something, and if you don’t get the response you deserve, give me a call,” he said.

The deputy budget chief was let go about a week after the Lamont administration received subpoenas from the FBI about his work in school construction and the state pier.