Editor’s note: Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola recently testified in Court that the lawsuit against Jason Milligan was a draft on May 31, 2018. The plan to turn over City parking lots to developer POKO Partners, in the expectation that a mixed-use development would be constructed, was formulated in 2004 and initially approved under Mayor Alex Knopp.
Lawsuits are like war and should be used sparingly and as a last resort. Diplomacy is always better.
In Norwalk, Mayor Rilling and his general Mario Coppola have weaponized the law department. They use lawsuits as a first step to silence, intimidate and to control the narrative.
The legal department has a standing policy that employees, commission members, staffers etc. shall not discuss pending or active litigation. So when they want to protect secrets, they start a lawsuit or multiple lawsuits to ensure conversations are stifled.
We just had an election and we have a lot of new faces that will be serving on the common council. There will also be a new director of the Redevelopment Agency very soon. I had really hoped that as our new City leaders got settled that there would be a fresh perspective and perhaps an opportunity to finally have a conversation about POKO. I like and respect Barbara Smith (sic), so I was further encouraged that she was voted council president. My hopes were shattered on Tuesday hours before our duly elected council was to have their first meeting, Mario poisoned the well by serving yet another lawsuit against me. This time over the concrete blocks that were installed to prevent the public from speeding across my property.
A U.S. president should not start a war without congressional approval and a Norwalk Mayor should not start a lawsuit without council approval. An emergency is a different story. This lawsuit if (sic) far from an emergency. Harry & Mario have known for over a year that I planned to close my parking lot to public traffic. They took several action steps to mitigate what I did, such as making Isaac street two-way and installing new signage. Further evidence that this lawsuit was not an urgent matter that just had to happen prior to the getting council approval is that I do not have to respond to the complaint until Jan. 18. If it was an emergency the City would have sought an immediate “emergency” injunction. Clearly there was time for this new council to weigh in on the decision, so why did Harry & Mario rush this lawsuit ahead without council approval?
From the outset, Harry and Mario’s actions have prevented me from having any dialogue with the council, and the prevention continues with the new lawsuit. Mario had a lawsuit prepared on May 31st 2018, the day I originally bought the POKO properties. Both Harry & Mario have a lot to hide. Mayor Rilling has never owned up to giving away $6 million worth of centrally located parking lots. Mario was the architect of the agreement that gave away the two parking lots. Both men also have significant ego invested in the lawsuits against me. It is time to check everyone’s ego, and it is time for the truth to come out.
Mario Coppola has only discussed the lawsuits in secret executive session, so there is no way for the public to verifying the accuracy of what he is telling our council. I dream of a meeting where the council and I have an open & public discussion, a discussion where the council feels free to ask questions without fear of ridicule or reprisal. We are in this together and we want the same things for Wall Street. Our mayor and chief lawyer refuse for the dialogue to happen. The lawsuits give them control, and as a bonus the significant legal fees paid by the taxpayers benefit lawyer friends, campaign contributors and former colleagues.
Norwalk deserves an open honest discussion. We have tried the heavy-handed methods without success. Harry-We know what you did with the parking lots-admit it, apologize and we can move on to discuss & consider the many solutions to POKO that have thus far been blocked & ignored.
Norwalk real estate broker