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Milligan turns up the heat as court date nears

Real estate broker Jason Milligan shows off his “Wall Street camouflage” gear, Saturday in front of the “Tyvek Temple” on Wall Street. (Contributed)

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.”

Milligan motion to stay 18-1204

ILSR motion to stay 18-1204

RDA Norwalk objection to WSOF POKO 18-1206

Subpoenas for injunction hearing (12.5.18)

Memo in Supp of Mot. to Strike (12.6.18)

22 comments

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 7:05 am

Who can we find out how much taxpayer money the City and RDA have wasted so far?

The over/under is $100,000 so far. I’ll take the over!

Also can someone please articulate what they get if they win the lawsuit?

They are trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube as if POKO was a smashing success until I came along…

If they win then they lose.
{…}

Time to fire most of them.

Edited to remove an insult. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 7:28 am

People are still taking the survey which is hovering right around 80% my favor, 20% for the city:

Should Norwalk continue the frivolous lawsuit against Milligan or try to talk?
&
Who will win the POKO lawsuit?

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG3ZJ2B

The average time spent taking the survey is 13 seconds. It is anonymous. You can only take it once.

The survey cost $0.

Cost of the lawsuit so far $100K +/-. Who thinks the lawsuit will be concluded/solved before the next election?

Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more clear that the only way POKO is going to get solved is to get rid of the swamp creatures at city hall. There are some big ones.

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 9:24 am

At this point in time, I am 100% in compliance with the public documents that limit the properties in the POKO area. The Leonard St lot has 137 parking spaces that are currently 100% open to the public. The LDA requires 88 always be available to the public.

The POKO project has been in serial default. It has been a disaster from the start. None of the agreements have been lived up to. People have lied and stalled and blighted the area.

I own the properties and I am wide open to discuss a whole range of solutions. I have strong ideas but I am willing to listen. As far as I am concerned, we have a blank slate. I am not demanding anything except open honest discussions. I am even open to leaving the parking lot as a parking lot for the foreseeable future.

All I get from Super Mario and other is an iron fist. They demand that before we ever have the first discussion about potential changes or solutions that I MUST fill out financial disclosures, and I MUST be fully approved as the redeveloper.

Not only is that an assinine approach and a complete waste of time, resources, and money but it is in complete contradiction to what they have been doing for 2 years.

They have been having secret talks with McClutchy who is nobody to this project. He is not an owner, a renter, a redeveloper. He or his group have not submitted financial disclosures or applied to be the redeveloper. Yet, for almost 2 years they have been negotiating and discussing changes to the LDA and working on plans to solve POKO (In Secret-remember the non-disclosure agreement?).

Somebody, please explain.

Is it really just that Mario doesn’t personally like me or is there something that I am missing?

Norwalk-Doesn’t this bother you? 83% of you want the City to stop the lawsuit and talk. Please let leadership know where you stand.

Paul December 7, 2018 at 10:12 am

Is City Hall crazy? They are actually trying to stop a developer who has spent considerable $$ to resurrect a dead project. City Hall should be ecstatic that someone has stepped up to the plate to take enormous risk and cost to enhance the area and wants to work with City Hall.

Oh I get it… They would rather the property be acquired by auction and “a friend” would buy it.

SHAMELESS

Marie December 7, 2018 at 10:48 am

Lol. So they’ve told you what you need to do, you don’t want to do it, so you whine, complain and put up a survey where 83% of NON readers agree with you. Sounds mature.

The rules were there before you Mr Milligan. Stop pretending you’re a victim.

Mitch Adis December 7, 2018 at 11:06 am

@Marie – I would agree with you if the rules also applied to Citibank. They do not. That’s the problem.

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 11:28 am

Marie,

Those are the rules that they are making up for me. They are not explicitly stated anywhere. They are vague. There is no mention of timing to follow those rules.

And most significantly they have spent the past 2 years working in contradiction to those “rules”.

Newsflash—Nobody has followed the stupid LDA! It is a disaster, but forcing me to follow some ridiculous standard that is not even written the LDA makes sense how?

Marie-Could this government possibly be wrong or do wrong in your eyes? Would you personally ever want to hold them accountable? If so now is a pretty good time.

Let’s just say that IF I were to follow the “rules” that you claim exist, then what?

They are looking to force me into a defined status of Redeveloper, but there is nothing viable to redevelop. It is a complete mess! The mess needs to be addressed before anyone applies for anything. McClutchy understood that. They were happy to discuss fixes with him prior to forcing him to acquire a status.

The truth is they are using the “rules” to try to pin this mess on me. Most people see through it. You and perhaps 5 other people do not.

Rick December 7, 2018 at 11:39 am

We are talking a city that breaks rules all the time with everyone on all issues. The rules have changed the goal the city has has never been met and the rest of us sit and wait for a resolve for how many years?

The RDA has plenty of issues they are not resolving but while this one keeps everyone busy who is running the rest of the other city created problems?

Shame we cant see a running log for daily expenses and payouts . Seems like grants are spent on over costs never really catching up with costs from the original goals.

Why cant the city simply tell us how much money like the tax credits is the city losing on all RDA jobs or have lost on with those what 20 people where most were never elected to rep the taxpayers oversee?

Not for nothing Duffs grants are nice but do they actually serve the entire city? How effective are they?

Matt December 7, 2018 at 12:57 pm

“I never made those statements to Mr. Milligan,” Coppola wrote to NancyOnNorwalk. Who then did he make those statements to?

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Marie,

I am sorry to lash out at you. I can understand and appreciate that from a distance when you are not deep in the weeds of this complicated mess that is seems straightforward.

It is not.

The only way to solve it with or without me is with a fresh dose of reality followed by thorough and perhaps uncomfotable discussions.

If it were easy and straightforward it would be solved already.

I am going to be part of the solution. That I can say with confidence. The question is how long will it take for this leadership to realize the need to engage with me.

There needs to be some compromise.

Rick December 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Its odd The Hour had a picture of Jason next to a fire hydrant that has been broke for years , has it been fixed yet?

I f I was a firefighter Id want that hydrant working within a reasonable time its been years for this one, but the city has its priorities , Im sure there is a good reason a hydrant next to the tyvek timber box doesn’t work.

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Matt you are on target.

Mario is a wordsmith. Everything that he says is carefully crafted.

His playbook is to try to outspend and out litigate. No end game for the project or Wall Street area, just use the power and purse of tbe government to try to crush me.

Somebody needs to take a small peak at the money he is spending (wasting). When taxpayer money is spent it should be done thoughtfully with purpose.

Where is the explanation of this lawsuit? What are the goals? What constitutes a victory?

The top goal that is completely ludicrous is to somehow forcebly give back the properties to defunct POKO Partnership. Not going to happen, but if it did is it a win?

Bryan Meek December 7, 2018 at 2:26 pm

$5 million of state money disappeared in this rabbit hole. When or will we ever get a full accounting of this project to date plus the legal costs now racking up?

Scarlet ohara December 7, 2018 at 5:27 pm

@brian meek, how long?

If you consider rillings past track record of hiding his stupidity concerning lying to the public sbout HUGE amounts of monetary loss…

Two years.

DrewT December 7, 2018 at 10:03 pm

@Jason First I have really been trying to follow all of this and I think my head is about to explode. So, in a small nut shell you now own the Tyvek Tower?! Or you want to just straight up purchase it and take it off the City’s hands? If either is the case what is the City’s issue with letting this go and get developed instead of the Bob Duff $5 Million nightmare we currently have now. What good is that nightmare doing just wasting away? You have a plan and ready to go? Pardon my ignorance in all of this but this cluster (You know what) hurts my head.

Jason Milligan December 7, 2018 at 11:18 pm

I do not own the Tyvek Temple. I offered to buy it and was turned down. That was beforw the $9 million tax credits were lost.

It is hard to summarize this foasco in a nut shell.

The main point is there are options. The city essentially gave away 2 parking lots but the good news is they preserved the rights for public parking. Both lots even though in private hands have deed restrictions about providing public access to parking.

There is no need for lawsuits. There is need for brainstorming.

The lawsuits are all about one or two egos. It has nothing to do with what is best for Norwalk.

I bought 5 properties out of the POKO project and I have improved the properties and the area more in the 4 months of owning than POKO has done in 14 years.

The city should just pump the breaks. They did nothing for so long and now everything is an emergency, please.

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