A demolition company won the majority of the work under Diamantis

As federal investigators unpack how the state has handled school construction contracts over the past few years, they’ll notice a group of four companies on a pre-approved list for hazardous materials remediation and demolition. .

In this list, which was created in 2016, a company, AAIS Corp. of West Haven, received an overwhelming majority of jobs on state buildings — $20.2 million in 210 contracts out of $28.8 million out of 276 jobs between June 2017 and the end of 2021, the records of the Department of State Administrative Services and Comptroller’s Office show this.

Another company, Bestech Inc. of Ellington, received $8.2 million for 51 jobs and two other companies completed a total of $363,894 in work – a lower number in part because these companies carried out work of hazardous materials but no major demolition work, sources told me.

AAIS also received a significant portion of the work from local school projects, as well as cities and towns for municipal buildings, state archives, and interviews with people familiar with the contracts reveal. Local officials, like the state itself, tapped into the list of pre-approved contractors for demolition and hazardous materials work, sometimes inviting only those companies to bid for jobs.

Unfortunately, we cannot account for local labor because the comptroller does not maintain records for non-state contracts and the DAS does not maintain a separate listing by company for local jobs.

For much or all of this period, Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis had direct or indirect supervision of state contracts, and direct supervision of AAIS works and the other three companies on the pre-approved list for construction projects. construction of schools – such as the demolition of buildings currently underway in Bridgeport, including an 8-story former University of Bridgeport dormitory, on the site of the new Bassick High School.

Diamantis is at the center of a federal investigation into how the state Office of School Building Grants and Review handled the contracts. He led that office for several years dating back to the administration of former Governor Dannel P. Malloy and served as Deputy Budget Director under Governor Ned Lamont from November 2019 until October 28, 2021, when he was fired from his position. as Deputy Chief of the Office of Policy and Management, and retired from his classified state position rather than accept a paid suspension ordered by Lamont.

AAIS and Bestech are also on the list of likely subpoenas in the federal investigation, according to released documents. Either or both companies could be listed simply as parties with information; they are not necessarily the targets of the investigation.

Administrative Services on Friday canceled the agreements that formed the 2016 pre-approved list, also known as the term list, and the IDIQ, “indefinite duration, indefinite quantity” list, two months before the contracts were due to end.

The department is also tightening rules on how cities and towns must use a new list of pre-approved terms, dating back to 2020, spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said Friday. “The guidelines for state and municipal use of the 2020 contract will be updated in the coming days,” she said.

Looking back at contracts between 2012, before Diamantis took office, and the end of 2021, AAIS received $38 million for haz-mat and demolition work on public buildings, according to payment records from the state. Bestech did $18.5 million in work. These totals do not include local schools or municipal works.

Why the list exists

The term list of pre-approved companies for haz-mat and demolition work is not new and if used correctly does not represent an unfair direction of labor to favored companies – although the way whose list was used under Diamantis may well be part of the federal investigation, based on a review of the subpoena list.

The list of terms has been used for decades to allow the state and cities quick access to contractors if, for example, an existing construction job reveals asbestos or other hazardous materials such as PCBs in putty on school windows. It has also been used for smaller or emergency demolition jobs, sources close to me told me last week.

State records show there were 28 contracts totaling more than $300,000 for public buildings, all but two after Diamantis assumed his most powerful role. Of these, 20 went to AAIS and eight to Bestech.

As part of the contracts with the companies – four on the 2016 list, for example – detailed unit prices have been defined in advance to avoid having to negotiate quick or emergency works. Companies were required to stick to these prices for the most part, although this was the subject of some confusion as, of course, no price list can anticipate all situations of complex work in an old arsenal or a school building.

Some of the work for the companies has been tendered, some has not; it depended on the rules of each trade. Similarly, sources familiar with the matter said some of the work was done at prevailing wages and some was done under so-called project work agreements, which ensure participation of unionized workers. .

The changes in the use of the list, which the DAS announced on Friday, are part of a series of reforms underway since late October, when the Office of School Construction returned to the DAS from the Office of Policy and management, where he had moved late. 2019 when Diamantis became Deputy OPM – at the insistence of OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw, sources said.

For example, I reported last week that the school’s construction office, now headed by Noel Petra, the DAS deputy commissioner, told the city of Hartford that it would not pay for the construction work. construction management which were carried out by two companies. That prompted the city to immediately fire a Plainfield firm, Construction Advocacy Professionals LLC, from the $149 million reconstruction of Bulkeley High School — a company tied to Diamantis.

It is unclear how and why so much work has been allocated to AAIS from the term list. DAS had no response when I asked. Diamantis, in a series of emails and interviews last week with my colleague John Moritz, defended the way he ran the office, saying it saved taxpayers’ money.

AAIS did not respond to an email and a voicemail was left on Friday evening. A Bestech executive declined to comment.

A key figure dies in December

AAIS was banned from some state contracts for several years starting in 2004. This was because one of its owners, the son of the co-founders, sources said, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with bribery. in the administration of Bridgeport Mayor. Joe Ganim, who spent seven years in federal prison and was re-elected after his release.

More recently, the company was sold to an out-of-state company, Spectrum, but it continues to operate as AAIS with offices in West Haven, according to its website.

One person who might have shed some light on the relationship between the school’s construction office and AAIS and the other companies on the list was Michael Sanders, who managed hazardous waste and demolition contracts for 24 years until ‘on his death at age 53 on December 17 in Old Lyme.

Sanders died of a drug overdose — “acute intoxication from the combined effects of fentanyl, cocaine and cocaethylene,” state medical examiner James Gill said Friday.

In his emails to Hearst CT, Diamantis praised Sanders and said the list of terms was warranted.

“Mike Sanders had pushed DAS to expand the roster before he came to see me. He said it fell on deaf ears and people were upset that the job went to a limited (sic) number of people on the list doing state work and it would only make it worse if cities used the list for school projects,” Diamantis wrote on Feb. 2. 9

“It was obvious that the list was too small and of the 4 on the list, only two were positioned to handle larger projects. The list is growing, but Mike said it needs to grow longer. He was the resident hazardous materials expert. He was a force to be reckoned with. He fights (sic) with testers as well as demo companies to drive up costs and, as he would say, “treat taxpayers for unnecessary extra costs”.

An internal DAS memo I obtained shows a project manager saying she spoke with Sanders about renovations at Norwalk Community College, where AAIS has a contract for about $1.5 million. A state college and university system official wanted at least three bids for the work.

The memo was dated Dec. 8, 2021, just days before Sanders died. The writer, Lisa Humble, said Sanders told her that all offers would be above the AAIS price, not below. “Their typical working day is 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – but they will work whatever hours and days are requested by DAS and charge their contract,” Humble wrote.

The DAS does not comment on how the list has been used, except to describe the reforms as they occur. Leaving aside the question of possible wrongdoing, it is clear that the list of pre-qualified contractor terms was a complex issue that needs to be debated in the light of day.

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