Norwalk political notes: Redevelopment plans new lawyer, Planned Parenthood endorses Hosten

Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Chairman Felix Serrano presides over a brief RDA meeting Monday in City Hall.

The election is Nov. 6. A Democratic primary is Tuesday.

Updated, 6:51 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s a roundup of Norwalk political items:

  • Redevelopment seeks new legal firm in POKO lawsuit
  • Hosten endorsed by Planned Parenthood
  • Norwalk registrars share voter registration info



Redevelopment tries again

The Redevelopment Agency is seeking a different legal firm to represent it in the lawsuit filed against Rich Olson of POKO Partners and an LCC managed by developer Jason Milligan.  The lawsuit stems from Milligan’s purchase of Wall Street Place properties from Olson without Redevelopment Agency approval.

Mayor Harry Rilling on July 17 blasted the Redevelopment Agency: he questioned the process that resulted in the selection of Russo and Rizio as representation in the lawsuit, questioned the judgement of the Agency’s leadership, and expressed concerns about unaddressed conflicts of interest.

Russo and Rizio was selected to replace Redevelopment Agency Marc Grenier because Grenier has ties to Milligan.

Redevelopment Agency Chairman Felix Serrano and Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan were expected to meet with the Common Council last week for an executive session where Rilling’s concerns would be discussed and questions asked.

Rilling and Common Council leaders have not replied to an email asking if the executive session allayed their concerns.

Serrano on Monday said the selection of a new law firm did not stem from the executive session but was related to Russo and Rizio’s potential conflict of interest: the firm has represented JHM Group in other matters. Citibank is expected to request that JHM Group become its preferred developer in Wall Street Place.

“Our current special counsel had advised or informed us that they have a conflict with JHM Group, which is a potential developer of the POKO project, therefore necessitating us to go back out to search for new counsel, instead of, avoiding having to do it at some point if he does become the developer,” Serrano said, opening Monday’s meeting.

Grenier was not present.

The Agency voted to appoint a Committee to select a new firm, with Commissioners Tom Devine, David Westmoreland and David Speirs volunteering to do the work. Sheehan explained that Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola wanted a meeting Wednesday so he can explain the urgency related to an Aug. 28 hearing date. Coppola had reviewed a list of potential law firms and didn’t see any potential conflicts of interest from the city’s side of the equation, Sheehan said.

Sheehan said he hadn’t been involved in the selection of Russo and Rizio but would do the staff work this time.

This was in response to Westmoreland’s questioning. Asked for a reaction, Westmoreland said, “It’s such a luxury for me to be on a Commission that actually has staff and where the Commissioners don’t have to do of all the work. I think that’s a great way to go.”




Hosten receives Planned Parenthood endorsement

Colin Hosten, who is challenging Common Council member Travis Simms (D-District B) for the Democratic endorsement for State Representative in District 140, has another endorsement for his collection.

Hosten “has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes!, a political action committee formed by Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that offers reproductive and other healthcare to millions of women, men, and young people around the world,” a press release said.


“This endorsement means a lot to me,” Hosten is quoted as saying in the release. “Not just because we are in a crucial moment when women’s health issues are under constant attack, but because it is important for everyone to recognize these attacks affect all of us. Women’s rights are human rights. We must continue to defend them together.”

Hosten, a newcomer who lives in Village Creek and has been a Norwalk resident for a decade, is vying with Simms to replace State Rep. Bruce Morris, who is retiring. Republicans have put forth John Flynn for the seat.

The release said:

“In the endorsement letter, Chris Corcoran, Chair of Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut said, ‘we are proud that Connecticut has maintained its strong historic record of support for reproductive health and rights. But there is also much room for improvement, especially in consideration of the current threats from the Federal government and the upcoming appointment of the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States.’

“In addition to Hosten, Planned Parenthood Votes! has also endorsed Gannon Long (Dist. 3), Shanté Hanks (Dist. 126), and Terry Adams (Dist. 146) for State Representative, and Aaron Turner (Dist. 23) for State Senate.

“Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut is a nonstock corporation exempt from taxation pursuant to Section 501(c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not coordinate with any candidates running for office.”


Hosten was previously endorsed by Run for Something (RFS)  and the Working Families Party, and is a Gun Sense Candidate of Distinction from Moms Demand Action.

Simms won the Democratic caucus to receive the Democratic endorsement, and Hosten obtained enough signatures to force a primary.

Simms has not informed NancyOnNorwalk of any endorsements.




Voting in the primary

The Norwalk Registrar of Voters Office is holding “enrollment sessions.”
If you want to vote in the Aug. 14 primary and you plan to mail in a voter registration card, your card must be postmarked Aug. 9 at the latest.

You can also enroll online, by Aug. 9.

The deadline for in-person enrollment is noon, Monday, Aug. 13. The office opens at 9 a.m.

You must be at least 18 years old when the election is held Nov. 6, be a United States citizen and a Norwalk resident to vote in Norwalk, according to a press release from Norwalk Registrars Karen Doyle Lyons and Stuart Wells.


Dawn August 1, 2018 at 7:08 am

How much is Norwalk planning to spend fighting Milligan.
They are not even giving it a chance. What’s bee going on so far is not working. Find out what he wants to do and work with him.
The city is embarrassed. Again.
This is all about whose got bigger balls. And they are using tax dollars to do it.

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 1, 2018 at 8:01 am

Dawn, it goes deeper than that. I think this lawsuit is the city’s lame attempt to distracti the public (using our money) from the real issue, which was the city turning a blind eye, for years, to all the delays and screw ups associated with the first phase of POKO 1 (parking and Tyvek wrapped building) and you’re right … bigger balls. At least 50% of us are unimpressed 😆

Jason Milligan August 1, 2018 at 8:07 am

I am with you Dawn. The wasted money and energy is disgusting.

Can someone at the city explain what they hope the lawsuit will do?

It is not rational.

A normal person would at least ask for what they want before they start a lawsuit.

The city hasn’t asked.
The city has not explained what they want.
Perhaps the city doesn’t know what they want…Embarrasing.

I know what the stakeholders want!
And I will continue to fight like hell to give it to them.

It is a shame because the lawsuit while frivolous it drains much of my brainpower and energy.

Huge waste of taxpayer money!
No stated benefit!
Go government…

Cecilia Andy August 1, 2018 at 10:36 am

Meaningless and futile lawsuits (like this and the Opiod legal action) is symptomatic of a bloated city government incapable of controlling costs. I can not fathom how a municipality is so cavalier and reckless with tax payer dollars yet when neighborhoods reach out to city hall to protect their communities from nursing homes, half way homes and wash car commercial operations, they are given the Heisman by the so called city’s “dream team”.

Norwalk Lost August 1, 2018 at 10:44 am

Really? How is receiving endorsements from the largest provider of abortions a good thing? It is no wonder how Trump continues to gain popularity amidst normalizing groups in which half the population is against.

Jason M. August 1, 2018 at 11:16 am

This lawsuit is about control. Once a lawsuit is started no matter how bad it is, then all communication and discussion must be funneled through attorney Mario Coppola, who is not accountable to the taxpayers.

I reached out to every single council member collectively and individually. A few brave ones had brief conversations before the lawsuit. Now they are under gag order. Unable to do their job! BTW-they won’t talk to me about anything. Even topics completely unrelated to Poko. SAD!

There should be an open, honest and very public discussion about Poko. This lawsuit ensures the opposite-more secretive discussions because everyone is scared into public silence.

We have 3 attorneys on the council. Have they read the Poko documents? Land Disposition Agreement, Loan Recognition Agreement, and all the amendments? If not they should. If they have then let’s hear from them.

Or we could pick from the canned responses below.

“We can not comment when there is pending litigation” We can’t comment when there is ongoing negotiations” We can’t comment when there is active litigation” We can’t comment when there are settlement discussions…

Everyone should be aware of what the city lawsuit alleges; Fraud & Tortuous Interference with a contract(LDA, LRA etc.). It is a laughably weak lawsuit but it did shut everyone single one of our leaders out, and now Mario is in control! (Check out the Fraudulent Transfer Act https://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/pub/chap_923a.htm) Should not take much effort to prove it is Not Applicable here.

The city spent approximately $12,000 on unnecessary outside law firms for the lawsuit against the property next to the library. ($12k is about the annual tax revenue for an average home in Norwalk) An entire annual tax bill of 1 house wasted!
The city is about to repeat the use of outside law firms, and this time it could be much more expensive, but equally unnecessary. Maybe it will be 3 or 4 houses entire annual tax bills wasted this time…

Cecilia Andy August 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

It appears that the city is navigating a slippery slope with this legal action by potentially opening a countersuit by libeling the developer who appears ready, willing and flexible to work with the city. Ulterior motives come to mind.

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Cecilia, The City has opened itself up to a host of lawsuits with POKO – starting with the properties they condemned in the first place. I also can’t believe that businesses like Pontos, Garden Cinema, Kosta’s etc., haven’t filed a class action lawsuit against the administration for negligence and lost revenue (add for that matter, the Norwalk taxpayers!)

I believe this lawsuit is a tactical move to stall, intimidate, and silence those at city hall that really know what’s been going on over all these years. That being said, our current 14-1 council members should be careful with their political silence lest they be accused of group think, complicit or less than forthcoming with information their constituents should have been made aware of. After all, this will eventually come out in court.

Mark my words, the POKO project will go down in history as exemplifying everything that is wrong with Connecticut and our city government: lack of transparency, intimidation, incompetence, cronyism, state and local campaign contributions and corruption.

Rick August 1, 2018 at 4:31 pm

while everyone is busy with wall st Firetree seems so far away in the past yet it now gains more finger pointing at Rilling. Whats next mayor more mistakes since the court cases have been made by the city and they are liable mistakes. It seems concerned citizens are providing legal means sounds lie the city is real busy going after wall st.

Hire some talent get rid of those who have created legal problems for the city.

Mario needs to win something, he cant show up back in Greenwich to be hired by them with defeat on his plate.

The RDA is also involved with the Sono Collection that has yet to surface as a problem and it will .business as usual can Village creek afford to be passive? Colin?

Lisa is right distractions is what the city and its legal team serves up, we have Washington village where its been documented people are living in squalor but it goes away replaced by wall st chaos.

You have Grasso and others having a good time on the taxpayers dollars

Lets ask Jason can he build a building like Spinnaker and not have the fire dept there twice a day ? Even those who live there were surprised the building lacks quality built poorly and how they convinced so many people it was state of the art building. A lego block snap together high rise .

The city better finish off day st emergency vehicles are having trouble getting to the building.

back to wall st

This saga was funny then turned serious and now its tragic. Norwalk bleeds money yet its suppose to be accountable,

Tom Devine, David Westmoreland and David Speirs volunteering to do the work. City of 100,000 and we depend on charity? Whats in it for them any outsider will as that doesn’t know them .

What is their goal working for the taxpayers or the mayor? Maybe its time we hear from them

The city has just created another mess with Firetree on quintard ave a costly one but Jason the bad guy gets the headlines ,
something is going on and its not making the city better is it?

Isn’t it time for that 60 second news outlet to run a city spoon fed article on what the city did right this week? One sided stories work for the one sided city hall one more reason to support NON its the only voice Norwalkers have.

Harry’s new found voice , is he ok does he have laryngitis?

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 2, 2018 at 8:20 am

Rick, Didn’t mean to forget Quintard and you hit the nail on the head!!! We’re a city of 100,000, yet the trail of amateur land use deals, lawsuits and disasters have been symptomatic of a city government that has never had a vision of what it wants to be.

Add to that, city departments with inconsistent goals and objectives, coupled with politically appointed, yet well meaning, volunteer boards and commissions that bounce project updates back and forth like pinballs and you can see how a Poko or Quintard happen.

Apologies for the metaphors, but maybe residents are waking up to the lack of professionalism that is costing the city millions. All while we have an exploding BOE budget, with no assistance from a bankrupt state in sight.

My frustration and increasing vocalness stems from a mayor and council that have known these tsunamis were coming, had opportunities to address them with real charter revision a few years ago, but supported (perhaps reluctantly) a more self serving path. Now, we have a back of the envelope reorganization from the mayor’s office, that even members of the 14-1 council are uncomfortable with. It too, will serve as another distraction, making it even more difficult to unwind Poko.

Patrick Cooper August 2, 2018 at 9:26 am

@NoN-board members, the NoN-community – and anyone who will listen….

As I sit here in my rainy mountain top spot – it occurs to me: as a reader of NoN, I’m better informed of what is going on in this city than 95% of the population.

@Rick – you mention 100,000. You’re not counting the other 25,000 that don’t hit the census.

It is a sad reality that a significant majority of this city are unaware (by choice or by lack of access) of the content and context of many of these stories that NoN-shines the light on. Meanwhile – the avid NoN-readers churn through these stories, Maalox in the morning! – and shout our opinions, suggestions, and demands to the echo chamber that is this base. It feels good – it accomplishes nothing.

Sorry – but we need to seriously fund raise. We need the board to determine what the cost would be for a 4-page circular to be mailed to every household in the city – 4x per year. Take the old-school way. There would be no excuse that a huge percentage of the residents would at least receive some exposure to these topics – which should be centered on the very topics that affect the entire city. The circular could drive folks to the web-site for a closer look.

Until the activists on this site find a way to engage a much, much larger percentage of the city – the mayor and his council will benefit from the shadows they operate within.

Agreed 100% Lisa – we desperately need charter revision – demanded by the populace. Right now – the taxpayers of this city should have the ability to recall every single member on the council – and the mayor. Their performance and behavior is abysmal, and condescending. Why should we have to wait until next November, when they will all have figured out a way to scrub the stench off – and misdirect the voters with shiny objects and new bogy-men. The rinse, repeat cycle will survive – with 34% voter turnout of which 80% don’t know a thing about why they are voting for whom. Pull the party lever, and go home Mr. & Mrs. Ostrich.

POKO is a red flashing light. Time to wake up – and pay attention. There should be 500 people at the next council meeting raising absolute hell. Not a mob – but a consensus. We need to send an undeniable message of who is in charge, and who works for whom.

Another Opinion August 2, 2018 at 11:46 am

@Patrick, I could not agree more with the need for a serious fund raise. If Nancy on Norwalk was a required read for all of the city’s citizens, voters would be more inclined to engage by ballot as opposed to settling for mediocrity. Any fund raising by NoN is an investment in the community by reporting on stories that matter most. There is no question that NoN’s publication has made a real difference to the community.

Bob Welsh August 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

@Patrick Cooper and Another Opinion

Thanks for your comments.

Yes – NoN must reach more readers. Claire Schoen is leading an energetic campaign to do just that, starting with a booth at SoNo ArtsFest this Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Come say hello. You’ll see uncommon shots from our Photo Vault, meet a board member, and/or answer the Friday Question in person.

You’re also spot on regarding the need for NoN to raise more money. Some exciting new initiatives are in the works. If every reader does his/her part, NoN’s coverage can expand. Here’s how to help:

1) Become a sustaining member at $15/month, or whatever you can afford. Click the “Monthly” tab in the donation box in the right hand column. Sustaining members are our superheros.

2) Come to Nancy’s Night Out August 16 at 6:30 p.m. Sea breezes, summer stars, cool jazz, wood-fired pizza, and a raw bar. Bring friends and family. You’re invited: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2018/08/invitation/

Thanks so much!

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