NORWALK, Conn. — The “POKO lawsuit” made it to the Norwalk Common Council’s main stage Tuesday, even if it wasn’t on the Council meeting agenda.
Mayor Harry Rilling ruled real estate broker Jason Milligan out of order and suggested he would have security called to remove Milligan from the Council chambers.
Most Norwalk meetings, including those held by the Council, allow citizens to speak for three minutes on a topic that is on the agenda. Milligan had claimed he wanted to talk about an agenda item, “Corporation Counsel,” otherwise called the City’s legal department. “Corporation Counsel” is listed on the agenda for every meeting as a header under which there might be an item, such as a legal settlement for the Council to discuss or vote on. There were no items listed Tuesday.
Milligan is being sued by the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, accused of unfair trade practices and “sham” real estate transfers in his 2018 purchase of properties slated to become parts of Wall Street Place phases II and III, often referred to as “POKO.” The case is slated for mediation in early October, with a trial possible next year.
Milligan could have paid just under $2 million to end the lawsuit in March 2020 but turned down that offer of compromise. When the plaintiffs recently told him he could end the lawsuit and others he’s involved in by paying $4.5 million, Milligan declined, counteroffering to sell the Leonard Street lot back to the City for $3.5 million. He said he’d not be profiting from the sale, and wanted his counteroffer on the agenda for public discussion Tuesday.
“That effort was blocked,” Milligan said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “It is too bad that the council & public are prevented from being involved with such important matters. It is as if this City is secretly run by a part time lawyer. One that is burning his candle at both ends while he successfully blocks developers from building in Greenwich. Meanwhile the same developers are welcome to continue ripping off Norwalk.”
Milligan’s offer is a suggestion that the City buy the Leonard Street lot back from him at a cost of $3.5 million. He would not make a profit from the sale, he explains.
He has presented testimony from former Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan to show that Wall Street Place phases II and III are not economically feasible.
Milligan, a New Canaan resident, began his remarks Tuesday by giving his address as 11 Belden Ave., the Norwalk location of his real estate office. “I have been sued,” he said.
Told by Rilling that he needed to sit down, Milligan said he wanted to talk about the cannabis ordinance that was on the agenda. Rilling gave him three minutes.
Milligan spoke for 20 seconds without mentioning marijuana. “I believe that topics can take a different angle than you might expect. Are you going to tightly control every aspect of everyone’s speech up here?” he said.
Rilling told him to talk about marijuana and began the three-minute clock again.
“I’ve been muzzled. I’ve been censored. And when I tried to talk, here’s a perfect example. I could have had three minutes would have been done,” Milligan said.
Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E) suggested a recess.
Rilling said the Council rules exist to keep people from talking for hours on off-topics; the Council voted to recess. When the meeting resumed, Rilling called upon Donna Smirniotopoulos to speak, but Milligan remained at the lectern.
“I came here with great intentions. I was talking to the council. I have nothing but respect for everyone on this council,” Milligan argued, and Rilling again told him he was out of order.
Milligan asked Livingston if he was afraid of him and finally gave the microphone to Smirniotopoulos.
She said she knew they would vote in favor of their ordinance making retail cannabis establishments legal in Norwalk and spelling out related items, but she had a suggestion for any revenue that came in from the State legalizing marijuana.
She said, “You need it to help pay for litigation. You have many outstanding bills from ongoing lawsuits that go back as far as 2018.”
Milligan later called the incident, “King Rilling ruling Jason Millig out of order while high.”
Rilling on Wednesday said he did call a security guard, who asked Milligan to sit down as the meeting continued.
Updated, 3:32 p.m.: More information.