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Judge pauses hearing after Norwalk files amended complaint

Norwalk real estate broker Jason Milligan leaves Stamford Superior Court on Wednesday.

Updated, 6:43 p.m.: Comment from Mario Coppola, additional information, copy edits; 8:45 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – Lawyers squabbled Wednesday in Stamford Superior Court over a request Tuesday by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City of Norwalk.

The Redevelopment Agency and City have asked Judge Charles Lee to allow them to amend their complaint in the lawsuit against real estate broker Jason Milligan and Richard Olson of POKO Partners.  Redevelopment Attorney Joseph Williams in an email characterized the changes as “relatively minor in nature,” but Lee in court admonished Williams that he had essentially conceded that the original complaint was “badly drawn.”

The Redevelopment Agency and the City of Norwalk are suing entities controlled by Milligan and Olson because Olson sold Milligan properties slated for use in the Wall Street Place project, commonly known as “POKO.”  The City is involved because it contributed a former municipal parking lot at 23 Isaac St. as land for the development.

The hearing on the plaintiff’s request for an injunction was scheduled to continue Wednesday and probably through the week, but Lee instead hit the pause button to give Milligan’s attorney, David Rubin, time to study the amended complaint and decide how to proceed. The next gathering will be a Jan. 15 status conference that will determine if the hearing process resumes the next day.

“Hashtag: winning,” Milligan said, after the brief court event.

Rubin explained the plaintiffs’ actions by saying, “First they claimed they had a right to the property through a fraudulent conveyance. That was a sham and that was withdrawn. Then they bring an action claiming they’re entitled to injunctive relief predicated on a likelihood of success enforcing the LDA (Land Disposition Agreement). Now they have withdrawn all of that as to the Milligan defendants; now they are trying to come up with a third way to be able to wedge their claim in. They are looking to shoehorn the facts into a legal claim that just doesn’t exist.”

The “first” action referred to by Rubin was an application for a prejudgement remedy and hearing, which was withdrawn in early September and replaced by the lawsuit.

“Amendments to pleadings are made in the normal course of litigation, particularly in cases involving complex transactions such as this case,” Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola wrote in a Wednesday email. “The subject Amendment makes minor changes to the original complaint in order to clarify the parties against which the particular remedies are sought, add additional claims, expands upon certain claims, etc… Mr. Milligan’s characterization of the subject Amendment reflects his lack of understanding of the Amendment itself, and appears to be part of his continued attempt to perpetuate a false and self serving narrative about the public parties in the local media. You can simply match up the original and amended pleadings for yourself in order to confirm the minor changes in the Amendment from the original pleading.”

RDA vs WSOF ILSR 18-1218

RDA Complaint ILSR WSOF 18-0914

 

‘Trial by ambush’

Rubin last week filed a “motion to strike,” alleging that major sections of the plaintiffs’ complaint were faulty in their legal reasoning.

Williams and Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan submitted an amended complaint Tuesday afternoon. Rubin described this to NancyOnNorwalk as “trial by ambush,” saying he’d spoken to Williams at 11 a.m. Tuesday and wasn’t told about the coming request to change the lawsuit. Williams in his Wednesday email said the amended complaint was filed “in hopes of removing {the motion to strike} as a distraction from the hearing.”

Williams explained:

“The proposed amendments are relatively minor in nature and do not change the basic story or the plaintiffs’ approach to the case.  The new claim against the contracting parties (Count Two – breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing) works in tandem with the breach of contract claim against them, relies on the same allegations and seeks similar damages.  The new count for declaratory judgment (Count Six) simply states in a separate count our request for a declaratory judgment that was already contained in the original complaint.  We added a few minor factual details that correspond to the evidence admitted in the court hearing, and incorporated into the complaint the elements for injunctive relief that are contained in our application for temporary injunction.  We have also requested that the court order Mr. Milligan and his companies to act consistently with the LDA.

“Otherwise, the essential facts of the case demonstrating the defendants’ wrongful conduct remain unchanged.  Likewise, the principal relief that the plaintiffs are seeking from the court — to unwind the improper conveyances and uphold the integrity of the LDA — also remains unchanged.  We continue to seek an award of monetary damages, punitive damages, and costs and attorneys’ fees against the defendants as well.”

 

Williams had to defend the changes to Lee on Tuesday morning, explaining that the amended complaint “alleges nothing new” and there are “labelling changes” to some of the counts.

“You can request (to amend the complaint) and per se it’s not improper,” Lee replied.  He noted that it’s his discretion whether he should grant the request.

“Would it be better for me to do it after the hearing concluded and then hear ‘I think that whole hearing is moot and it’s a waste for me to restart it?’ To me, it made more sense to put it out there while the hearing is open,” Williams replied.

“I am going to make darn sure that there’s due process here and I am not going to prejudice one side because you’ve decided that your pleading, your complaint, was badly drawn, which you apparently did,” Lee said. “I mean, you essentially accepted their points and what they have been saying… you corrected a lot of things, which perhaps it would have been better if they were right from the beginning.”

 

Subpoenas

Redevelopment and the City have also issued subpoenas to Milligan and other financial entities involved in the complicated case, demanding, among other things, a “participation agreement” that would illuminate the reasons two entities claim to have mortgages on Milligan’s “POKO” properties, debt that totals $11 million on property appraised at $4.2 million.

Rubin and Williams debated the request.  Rubin claimed that he’s trying to work out confidentiality issues on the participation agreement and Williams retorted that Milligan’s promise to maintain his partners’ confidentiality means nothing in court.

Rubin promised that the document would be provided.  “We are working through the confidentiality, {and} may have to file a motion. It doesn’t mean they don’t get it, just means there are objections from the parties that have to be taken into account.”

The plaintiffs accuse Milligan, Olson and others of unfair trade practices in the transfer of the properties.

Milligan’s financial arrangements are muddy, as the purchase and sales agreement for the properties – 21, 23 and 31 Isaac St. and 83 and 97 Wall St. – said that a $5.8 million loan issued by CC Rivington would be paid off, but there’s no evidence that it was, according to testimony delivered Tuesday.

CC Rivington assigned the mortgage to a Milligan-controlled LLC, Komi Ventures, and Komi also has a $5.2 million mortgage on the properties.

The participation agreement was noted in the documents, Lee said Wednesday.

“It’s … possible there was a deal made with Rivington to participate in a bigger equity reward later. The papers are pretty opaque at this point,” Lee said.

Subpoenas also sought assignments of leases or rents from ILSR to MC Credit, the previous owner of the $5.8 million mortgage on the properties, according to court testimony.

 

 

Confronting Sheehan and complaining about the expense to taxpayers

After the hearing adjourned, Milligan approached Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan, who was sitting in the back of the courtroom as he’d been scheduled to testify.

Williams protested to Rubin that he should admonish his client not to hound Sheehan.

Rubin declined.  “He’s a grown man,” Rubin said.

Milligan told Sheehan he wanted to talk, asking him to “imagine” what they could do if they were working together to improve the Wall Street area.

“Imagine if you didn’t do this and you went through the process the right way,” Sheehan replied.

Leaving the courtroom, Milligan and Rubin talked of the City’s legal expenses.

“There was one day here they had three lawyers from Shipman. That’s $1,200 to $1,500 an hour, or $1,000 to $1,500 an hour. Now they have two lawyers here nonstop and the City has lawyers here nonstop,” Rubin said.

Draft minutes for the Nov. 13 Redevelopment Agency meeting indicate that there are $17,299 in “unforeseen unbudgeted ongoing litigation” expenses. The Agency approved a $150,000 transfer from deferred revenue to the professional fees-legal expenditure line item, with the minutes saying Sheehan “can’t guarantee that that is going to be the total cost, but it should be a good chunk” of what is needed.

Rubin on Wednesday said, “They spent $200,000 and they are not one day closer to the relief they are seeking in a tenable cause of action then they were when they brought the fraudulent transfer action in June.”

17 comments

Jason Milligan December 20, 2018 at 3:28 am

Is Wall Street cursed?

Yes by bad government decisions and their over involvement.

They can’t get out of their own way.

Maybe if Rilling would give a complete POKO explanatory statement we could get a clue to their crazy plans?

The City has mobilized all of its forces against one of the few people that is investing big money into Wall St.

I am not perfect. But I am here and I am not going anywhere. I am tireless. I own more property than anyone else in the Wall St area, and I juat bought two more parcels yesterday. Fighting against me is figjting agaisnt yourself.

Can we please get an explanation from the city why they won’t try to work with me?

A legitimate answer, not he needs to apply, and to be approved as the redeveloper before we talk. That is a risiculous standard that I wish they woukd have applied to McClutchy before wasting 2 years with him.

Mario is the person blocking interaction and dialogue between me and anyone at the city. Laoise is now his boss. Can she curtail his anger and antics for a few minutes so the calm inteligent thoughtful people involved in government can have a conversation?

I saw Alex warming up in the bull pen at the field next to City Hall the other day.

Maybe Bill Collins could help?

Where is Bob Duff? He told me that he would talk to me after the election. Then he replied to my email reminding him that it is now after the election that he is so busy and that perhaps his schedule will free up after the holidays.

Bob I can set up a ribbon outside Mr. Mango for you to cut if that is what it takes to get you to Wall Street.

Full disclosure, I like bob and I voted for him when I lived in Norwalk, but Bob I have to say you seem to have changed.

Hope you prove my perception wrong.

Jason Milligan December 20, 2018 at 3:46 am

Has the City ever explained why they are suing me?

What do they get if the win the lawsuit?

The big releif they want is to give the properties back to POKO. If that were remotely possible or legal, Then what?

We are $200,000 into this frivolous lawsuit and what does the city have to show for it?

When did the leadership stop listening to the will of the people, and when citizens of Norwalk stop holding their government accountable?

Tom Livingston-congratulations for your new role as head of the City Council. You are an attorney. Do you think our leadership has a winning legal strategy?

How about some dialogue with you and the council?

Lisa Brinton December 20, 2018 at 7:01 am

This POKO nonsense, funded by the taxpayer epitomizes Norwalk’s reputation for financial incompetency and bullying tactics. Individual homeowners are experiencing it now with their botched residential revaluations. This is what happens when you don’t have inclusive leadership, shut down divergent points of view and live in a bubble.

It’s ridiculous how much effort has been put into Milligan, considering the utter devastation about to befall SoNo and East Norwalk, when the DOT really starts to embark on their 5+ year replacement of the Walk Bridge. On that billion dollar project – crickets from city hall. In fact, they handed over the keys to the city with their legal declaration of FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact.) leaving Norwalk as a sitting duck with little compensatory recourse. Try explaining that to residents and businesses located there.

To my more partisan NON commenters, these commercial and operational land use issues are not resolved by an R or D mindset, but with a professional management focus on what’s best for our city. Right now, that’s not happening,

Paul December 20, 2018 at 9:45 am

This is a great of example of government at it’s worst. First they start an ill conceived project. Then they don’t comply or enforce their own agreement (which is a poor document) for over two years and did not require a bond. Now they are incapable to file a decent law suit (because it is nit warranted) and waste tax payers money.

I still believe something is fishy when the City could not simply settle their issues with Mr. Milligan. Obviously there is a lack of simple business acumen…a law suit should be their last recourse.

SHAMELESS !!!!

carol December 20, 2018 at 11:30 am

so now we are paying lawyers fees for tim sheehan-just get rid of him and get an arbitrator in who has no fingers in this deal.
maybe we should all stop paying our taxes until we get some real answers from our mayor.

Ken December 20, 2018 at 11:39 am

Wow Lisa has some nerve talking about partisan R or D. Maybe she forgot that she was a R just a few weeks ago until she found that it would not help her get elected. She also has one of the most partisan R in Norwalk as her campaign financial manager. Considering she claims to not be about R and D will she decline the R endorsement when it comes. It’s pretty obvious that that she is a closet R but she doesn’t want the Trump backlash. FYI if you are as transparent as you claim to be you can’t have I both ways.

Also Mike asked a few questions in his comment on the article linked below that you have not answered. Not very transparent now are you?

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2018/12/norwalk-political-notes-electoral-items/

Paul Lanning December 20, 2018 at 1:53 pm

1. This absurd courtroom nonsense is a misuse of taxpayer money.

2. The immoral incompetent U.S. federal government has no bearing on the immoral incompetent Norwalk CT government. Local officials and candidates aren’t accountable for the daily misdeeds in Washington, Wisconsin, or anywhere else.

cc-rider December 20, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Ken- Lisa will respond the the questions posed right after Harry debuts his Wall Street update announcement.

cc-rider December 20, 2018 at 4:27 pm

No Ron. If you held the same microscope to Harry on any myriad of questions about the idiocy that passes muster in this town, hell would freeze over by the time you got a answer.

Ron Morris December 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm

cc-rider
Same as Lisa..Lets wait and see if she answers as we all know she uses this site as she feels the need. She however avoids the hard questions.

Lisa Brinton December 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

Ron, I am more than happy to sit down with you and have a cup of coffee to discuss the host of issues I am running on, as well as the sloppy management impacting all of us, regardless of U, I, R, D GP or WFP. However, if you’re just interested in ‘trollling me’ quite honestly, I have better things to do.

For the record, I supported Harry in his re-election bid in 2015. He promised to finally address land use and planning and zoning issues, after campaigning on it in 2013 – then asked to put a sign in my yard. Which I did.

Secondly, you are right, I have been ‘running’ since the last campaign, challenging the mayor on his various ill-conceived policies. However, you should know that I have done it after seeking advisement from BOTH prominent Democrats and Republicans in town – not just because I feel like harassing Harry.

Thirdly, as to answering Mike’s questions, I saw him the other night at the Chamber of Commerce dinner and told him what I think of his comments. He knows me, has been to my house and I to his on multiple separate, social occasions. We know each other’s loved ones. He’s trolling me – for Harry, for sport, who knows? but I have no intention of publicly engaging him either. He knows better.

Finally, I tried to find you in the voter files and could not – so either you are not registered vote, don’t live in Norwalk, have another name or are using a NON pseudonym. In any event, I will happily meet you in person, should you want to speak further. Thanks!!!

Mike Mushak December 21, 2018 at 9:31 am

Lisa just admitted in her comment above that she’s “harassing Harry”. But everyone already knew that.

She’s even harassed the mayor’s wife which she refuses to apologize for, in a Trump-style personal attack that seems to be her main strategy to get votes, which already failed once in what should have been a lesson in how not to run a campaign.

Since she brought up her bizarre verbal assault at the Chamber dinner, she actually grabbed my jacket collar and wouldn’t let go as she cut into me about how much pain she’s had in her life, and how her mother and children read my comments holding her accountable, and how terrible I am for doing that to her. It was more a threat than an appeal!

As I tried to tell her that everyone has some pain and suffering in their lives and that’s not an excuse to behave badly, she wouldn’t stop yelling and turned bright red to the point I was worried for her condition. As quickly as she attacked me she released my jacket and disappeared into the crowd. The hot Tabasco sauce on the plate of oysters I was trying to hold onto as she jerked me around seemed suddenly redundant for a moment.

It was a bizarre tirade where she basically pleaded for immunity to criticism because of her past pain and suffering. I wonder if she thinks any of her many victims of her admitted harassment have any feelings also, or any pain and suffering in their lives she should concern herself with? Why is she the only one with any feelings around here? Truly bizarre.

Lisa has been dishing out criticism and personal attacks not just at Harry Rilling but also at city staff and volunteers for years now. Her almost daily negative comments are her record for anyone to read, so don’t take my word for it. It’s all there.

So now, when held accountable for this non-stop nonsense, she retreats into in emotional appeal to stop being so mean to her because of all the “pain and suffering” she’s had to endure, as she attempts to inflict pain and suffering on others. Seriously. This is not normal behavior. I truly hope she can calm down and find peace, but I will not stop asking her simple questions.

1) Lisa, do you embrace Republican policies (and Trump’s policies as head of that party) as you seek that party’s endorsement? Be specific on every major issue including healthcare, immigration, environmental and banking regulations, tax policy, voting rights, gun control, women’s right to choose, consumer protection, and LGBTQ rights. You have said in the past that none of those issues affect CT and Norwalk residents. Can you explain how we are not affected by those policies?

2) What is your opinion of the lawsuit against NoN by your friend Marc D’Amelio who you supported in the last campaign, a lawsuit the Norwalk Hour calls a “threat to democracy?” Do you support the lawsuit or oppose it?

3) Will you publicly apologize to Mayor Rilling and his wife Lucia for insulting their marriage including showing too many “public displays of affection?” And perhaps explain why you think that is an acceptable thing to say in public?

4) . If you’re going to run for mayor, you have to expect demands for “accountability and transparency” of yourself as you demand it of others, no? If not, why?

Paul Lanning December 21, 2018 at 1:02 pm

“healthcare, immigration, environmental and banking regulations, tax policy, voting rights, gun control, women’s right to choose, consumer protection, and LGBTQ rights.”

The only voice Norwalk’s government has on these issues is the voting franchise which we all share in state and federal elections each November.

Patrick Cooper December 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

@Mike Mushak – you’re a piece of work. You use the word “bizarre” to describe a verbal assault – I couldn’t find a better word to describe your entire post.

You do realize this article is about just one more idiotic “Planning & Zoning” fiasco in Norwalk? Do you?

And correct the record if I’m mistaken, but haven’t you been a part of both zoning prior, and on the planning commission today? Doesn’t that make you – um – part of the problem?

Before you start attacking Lisa, defend your own record. Defend Harry’s 2013 campaign promise yet delivered much less initiated.

How on earth is anyone swayed by your point of view, when essentially – you are part of the very problem that Lisa will fix as mayor? Of course, you’re hysterical. Of course.

Ron Morris December 22, 2018 at 12:44 am

Lisa
For the record I would like you to answer the questions here. You know that whole transparency thing that you brag about.. Also calling a taxpayer a troll proves that you are not the right one for Mayor. You trying to get more information about me would fit the category of a troll, not me asking you to answer valid questions. The only thing that you need to know about me is that I am a taxpayer..

Mike Mushak December 22, 2018 at 9:02 am

Patrick, a reminder that Lisa is running for mayor, not me. I have asked many important questions repeatedly, and the public is still waiting for a response.

When Lisa and her typical “sky is falling” loyal supporters like yourself substitute daily personal attacks for substantive responses to important questions asked by Norwalk residents, all we can say is “Houston, we have a problem” with this mayoral candidate.

Snark and bluster may have gotten your boy Trump elected, and now hows that working out for all of us?

Lisa is now Norwalk’s own version of Trump based on her own comments and behavior on the record, and I predict Norwalk has had enough of this craziness considering the current state of affairs.

If she wants to really be taken seriously, she can start by answering simple questions that were asked in a comment above about the Republican policies she wants to identify herself with by seeking the GOP endorsement, and by apologizing for her recent ugly personal attack on the mayor and his wife.

Until then, she will not be taken seriously by thinking voters in Norwalk, who as the recent election prove, far outnumber the small-minded Trumpees who frequently post on this site, and seem to be the only ones backing Lisa at this point and whose support she is actively seeking.

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