HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday that Melissa McCaw, the state's secretary of the Office of Policy Management, will be stepping down from the position to take a new job in the town of East Hartford.
The governor met with McCaw after returning from a trip to Israel, where she told him that she would be taking a job as the new finance director for the city of East Hartford.
"Melissa is a great friend and has been an extraordinary secretary of OPM," Lamont said. "She took over in a real time of dire need in this state when we were confronted with a $3.5 billion deficit and we had about 60 days to put that budget together."
Lamont said McCaw will take a leave of absence before transitioning to her new role. Jeff Beckham, who worked with McCaw, will take over as acting secretary of OPM.
McCaw’s departure comes as the state’s budget office is under intense scrutiny and the subject of a federal investigation involving the office’s second in command, Kostantinos Diamantis.
Lamont said he did not ask McCaw to resign from her post and instead believes she wanted a fresh start from OPM.
"I am so proud of all the work we have done together over the last three years, we have accomplished so much for our taxpayers and citizens,” McCaw said in a statement released by the town of East Hartford. "I am so grateful to Governor Lamont for his faith in me and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this team and make a difference for our state. We have weathered the pandemic, expanded services, maintained a budget surplus and paid down our pension liabilities by nearly $2 Billion over our annual payments without raising a penny in taxes."
Federal investigators are looking into various construction projects Diamantis oversaw in his role, including the “planning, bidding, awarding and implementation” of school construction projects, upgrades at the state pier in New London and hazardous material abatement projects.
State officials recently received a federal grand jury subpoena seeking electronic communications dating to Jan. 1, 2018, involving Diamantis.
Eight days after the state received the federal subpoena, Lamont's office fired Diamantis as Deputy Secretary for the Office of Policy and Management.
Diamantis was also placed on leave from his other job overseeing school construction projects under the Department of Administrative Services. A letter from the state said it was "pending the results of an investigation into your alleged misconduct."
On Thursday, House Republicans seized the opportunity to call for a legislative commission – and possibly a private investigator – to look into the alleged contracting “wrongdoings” by Diamantis.
Standing in front of signs with enlarged news headlines that included the words “corruption” and “scandal" at a state Capitol news conference, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora's request was the latest salvo in recent weeks from legislative Republicans, as well as Lamont's likely GOP challenger in November, businessman Bob Stefanowski, and the Republican Governors Association. They've publicly questioned the governor's leadership in responding to a federal grand jury subpoena regarding hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending, and whether it's a sign of larger problems for the administration and state Democrats.
“There is an erosion of good government in this building,” Candelora said. “People should be concerned with that.”
Norm Pattis, defense attorney for Diamantis, called the House GOP's proposed legislative investigation “as stupid an idea as can be conceived by elected officials in any state in the United States and maybe in the Third World,” in an exclusive interview with FOX61 on Thursday.
He reiterated Diamantis “broke no law” and that “many of the claims of undue influence and so forth are people who simply don't understand the state bidding process.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said in a statement that he agreed it's the “proper role” of the General Assembly to review state policy and operations. But he called it “naïve and/or deliberately misleading” to believe the General Assembly “can launch a criminal investigation parallel to and superior to the ongoing federal investigation."
In a written statement, Max Reiss, Lamont's spokesperson noted how Lamont “took swift action to remove Mr. Diamantis when ethical improprieties were brought to his attention” and how he ordered an outside investigation into questions about the hiring of one of Diamantis’ daughters by former Chief State’s Attorney Rich Colangelo.
“Governor Lamont has zero tolerance for the types of actions which have been exposed,” Reiss said.
FOX61's Matt Caron and Jennifer Bernstein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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