Updated, 7:35 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Real estate broker Jason Milligan and Richard Olson of POKO Partners are seeking to “pause” the lawsuit filed against them by the City of Norwalk and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and instead force a mediation.
Milligan also issued subpoenas to Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin and two other men, ordering them to a Tuesday morning court hearing. In addition, a motion to strike attempts to toss large parts of the lawsuit as legally insufficient.
Milligan on Thursday submitted a blistering opinion piece to NancyOnNorwalk, touting the motion to strike and alleging corruption in Norwalk leadership; Coppola replied to NoN that Milligan’s allegations are false and part of a public relations campaign he threatened months ago.
A hearing in the lawsuit filed against Milligan and Olson is scheduled for Monday afternoon in Stamford Superior Court.
The City and the Redevelopment Agency sued the duo after Olson’s ILSR Owners LLC sold Millgan’s Wall Street Opportunity Fund LLC five Wall Street-area properties that had been slated for the Wall Street Place development. POKO Partners had been expected to build the development but construction on Phase I stopped in mid-2016 due to a budget gap of about $9 million, after Olson’s brother became fatally ill.
The City and Redevelopment Agency contend that the transfer of the Phase II and III properties was illegal because Olson did not seek Redevelopment Agency approval of Milligan as the proposed redeveloper. Milligan is further accused of engaging in unfair trade practices by using sham corporations to white-wash a prohibited transfer of property. Olson is accused of being unjustly enriched by selling property he was given by the City with the expectation that parking spaces be provided for citizens.
Lawyers for Milligan and Olson have each filed “motions to stay” with the court, which argue that the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the properties specifies mediation as a remedy for a dispute.
This is “the process that the city followed in their dispute with Citibank,” Milligan said in his Thursday statement.
Citibank issued a $32 million construction loan for Phase I, and foreclosed after the project stalled. Norwalk and Citibank are headed to mediation this month.
The request for a pause comes in “the eleventh hour,” Redevelopment Agency Attorney Joseph Williams and Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan replied in a Thursday brief which argues that Milligan is not party to the LDA.
Norwalk and the Redevelopment Agency will be irreparably harmed if the Court does not issue the temporary injunction, and the Court should hear their application before issuing a ruling, according to the brief.
The lawsuit asks the court to:
- declare Milligan’s purchase of the properties null and void
- order that the $5.2 million mortgage issued by Komi Ventures be released
- order that the lease of the parking lot from CC Rivington to Komi be nulled
- issue a temporary and permanent injunction preventing Milligan under the entities Wall Street Opportunity Fund, Komi Ventures and Milligan Real Estate from selling the properties, including the deed-lieu transfrer from Wall Street to Komi
- issue a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent Milligan from seeking permits or approvals for the properties
- issue a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent Milligan from making alterations to the properties
Milligan’s Thursday statement opined that Norwalk leadership has created a climate of secrecy, and sends the message that connected cronies are welcome and “ordinary citizens, small businesses, or anyone with contrary beliefs” are not.
“Criticism or anything that exposes the corrupt ways is dealt with forcefully and litigiously. Extraordinary effort and expense is invested trying to keep the secrets,” he wrote, further alleging that, “Mario’s first legal attempt to silence me on the POKO situation was easily swatted away and the city was forced to withdraw their sham lawsuit. Their next lawsuit was much longer and more detailed. It was also very expensive.”
The City and Redevelopment Agency in September withdrew their first legal filing against Milligan and Olson and submitted a new one. Coppola at the time said the first filing wasn’t a lawsuit but an action seeking a remedy.
Milligan in April 2016 won Zoning approval for a 69-unit apartment building next to the Norwalk Public Library, only to have the Norwalk Public Library Foundation appeal the Zoning decision and prompt a court battle. Library advocates at the time expressed concern that the new building could make it impossible to expand the library and resolve its chronic parking shortage.
Milligan on Thursday called the library conflict a “fiasco” that exemplified “the type of behavior this administration traffics in,” and alleged that the “new frivolous lawsuit is headed in the same direction.”
“Super Mario is like a playground bully or a gangster thug” who “routinely threatens, bullies and pressures behavior behind the scenes,” he wrote.
“Mr. Milligan’s comments regarding my conduct are completely false, as part of Mr. Milligan’s continued campaign to slander and libel my professional and personal reputation,” Coppola wrote in a Thursday email. “Earlier this year when Mr. Milligan took title to the properties that are the subject of the current litigation, he threatened me that he would wage a public relations war against the Mayor and me if the City and Redevelopment Agency (‘RDA’) filed any litigation against him or his company(s) regarding the POKO properties.”
“Over recent months Mr. Milligan made other public statements alleging that I took certain actions regarding him or his company(s) only for other third parties to later confirm directly to Mr. Milligan that I absolutely did not act as he claimed, and in fact, had no involvement whatsoever in those matters,” Coppola wrote. “Mr. Milligan has never publicly or privately apologized for any of his false statements regarding me.”
Milligan has repeatedly quoted Coppola as promising months ago to “wear him out” with multiple court motions, and opining that Milligan doesn’t have the deep pockets necessary for a legal fight.
“I never made those statements to Mr. Milligan,” Coppola wrote to NancyOnNorwalk.
Milligan provided NancyOnNorwalk with copies of subpoenas that he said were served to Coppola, Kleppin, Assistant Building Official Leo Guerrero and Bret Holzwarth of Redniss & Mead to appear at 10 a.m. Tuesday for a hearing in the lawsuit filed against him and Olson.
Milligan in August claimed Callahan told Guerrero to void Milligan’s demolition permit for 21 Isaacs St.
The motion to strike filed Thursday contests the legality of the case.
“The lawsuit was written in beautiful prose unfortunately it is extremely flawed legally,” Milligan wrote in the Thursday statement. “They are conflating several issues and they are attempting to invent remedies from thin air. Ultimately the public parties are bound by the four corners of the LDA and other land agreements whether they like the way they wrote it or not!”
Coppola wrote to NancyOnNorwalk, “City or RDA officials will not participate in a public back-and-forth with Mr. Milligan regarding the issues which are the subject of the pending litigation in the Superior Court.”