Milligan agrees to settlement in POKO lawsuit
Agreement is in principle; documents not drawn
NORWALK, Conn. — A settlement has been worked out in the fiery legal battle between real estate broker Jason Milligan and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City, legal documents filed Tuesday show.
The apparent agreement comes on the heels of a settlement document revealing terms between the plaintiffs and Milligan’s co-defendant Richard Olson.
A trial in the years-long battle inspired by Milligan’s 2018 purchase of “POKO properties” has been slated to begin March 27. Jury selection has been scheduled for March 7.
Milligan is accused of unfair trade practices and “sham” real estate transfers in his hurried $5.2 million purchase of properties slated to become parts of Wall Street Place phases II and III, often referred to as “POKO,” as POKO Partners had been developer of the project.
Olson, brother of late POKO Partners President Ken Olson, sold Milligan the land, which included a former City-owned parking lot. As it was awarded to POKO Partners in exchange for development promises, the property is governed by a Land Disposition Agreement (LDA), which stipulated that the property could not be transferred without Redevelopment Agency approval.
Olson sold Milligan the properties after being warned by the Redevelopment Agency that, in its view, this would violate the LDA. Milligan was also warned. Milligan has since argued that the LDA is invalid for a host of reasons.
The City and Redevelopment Agency have sought to reverse the sale and collect damages.
In November, the Common Council discussed a possible settlement with Olson and five POKO-related legal entities under his control.
On Friday, the parties filed a joint motion for judgment, spelling out what Olson has agreed to. Judge Sheila Ozalis approved it Tuesday.
Olson admits truth in the charges made by the plaintiffs while also not admitting or denying them, the document shows. If the Court reverses the sale, Olson has agreed to return the former municipal parking lot to City ownership.
Olson also agreed to testify against Milligan, if he is asked to.
If the Court reverses the sale, Olson has agreed that the remaining four properties – 21 and 31 Isaacs St. plus 83 and 97 Wall St. – are subject to the legal agreements made as part of the POKO project. Olson states that he will comply with the agreements, the LDA and the LRA (Loan Recognition Agreement).
The document states that there’s a separate agreement spelling out a settlement payment that Olson will make.
On Tuesday, Attorney Daniel Elliot, representing the Redevelopment Agency, asked Ozalis for a continuance.
After two mediation sessions with Judge Elain Gordon, the parties have come to an agreement in principle, he said. Settlement papers are being prepared.
No further details are available.
In a legal document filed Thursday in a related case, the plaintiffs said, “While there is a tentative settlement at this time, there is no guarantee that it will remain settled.”
In March 2020, the plaintiffs offered Milligan the chance to settle the case for $1.9 million. Milligan mocked the offer and the City for making it.
Recently, he attempted to take the deal. Instead, the City and Redevelopment Agency told him they wanted $4.5 million. Milligan called that “ridiculous.” Milligan said he’d sell the City and Redevelopment Agency their lot back for $3.5 million, a price derived from land agreements made before he got involved and recorded in land records, and streamline the LDA and LRA.
Milligan owns more than 40 properties in the Wall Street area.
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Updated, 11:43 a.m. Friday: More information.
David Muccigrosso February 1, 2023 at 10:54 am
Why does the RDA get to intervene in the free market like that in the first place? This is literally picking winners and losers.