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Norwalk deserves transparency in Milligan settlement offer

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Last week, Jason Milligan sent to the Common Council the attached settlement offer.  On Thursday, I sent the attached resolution to the City Clerks and a request to have it included in Tuesday’s agenda.  This request was denied, not in writing but by evidence of agenda that has now been published.

While the ability of the minority party to have resolutions be part of the agenda is not expressly stated in the Rules governing the Council as recently adopted, Norwalk has a rich history going back decades of this practice.  Alex Knopp and Mike Lyons, to name a few, used this power of the minority party frequently as members of past Councils.  This is one of the pillars of Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure (“Mason’s Rules”) which the Council adopted with certain exceptions, which make no mention of resolutions.

I’m told my request to have this resolution on the agenda was rejected under the guise of it impacting current matters of litigation.  I expected my request to be honored under our governing rules of conduct (Mason’s) and published as part of the agenda for transparency.  I was not expecting a majority to agree to discuss this openly and simply to table this from Council debate, but it didn’t even get that far.
What I was expecting was simply having the public offer on the agenda that would allow for citizens to weigh in on it.  Being it is not on the agenda, shuts off all public debate of the matter and prevents citizens from raising it in public comments.  I fail to see how preventing citizens from commenting on a public offer preserves the integrity of some other secret proceedings on the matter.
While the property may be the subject of other ongoing matters, the offer itself appears to be independent of any of any other consideration and only mentions the history that has already been made public.  I’m calling it a fresh start.  The position that any talk about the project can’t happen in public is precisely why there is still a hole in the ground there going on eight years now.
Admittedly, I am not privy to the existing litigation at this time having onboarded recently (nothing has been mentioned or discussed in the last 12 weeks), but again the need to keep a brand new offer made public to the Council off limits to discussion from our citizens escapes me.
It is my opinion that members of the public should be able to know and weigh in on this. The failure to reach any conclusion in four-plus years on a more than 15-year-old endeavor suggests that the status quo is not working and new approaches need to be explored.
Personally, I am sick and tired of the cloak of secrecy about the whole matter and wanted to bring this forth for public debate in an effort to get this eyesore of a project brought to the most rapid conclusion possible.
I’m not interested in the blame being thrown around, right or wrong, but the entire mess is a monument to the failure of government and the matter needs to be put to rest and serve as a painful lesson to Norwalk of what to never do again.
I don’t expect to file an ethics complaint on having been denied access and transparency under Council Rules given the conflicting interests on the Ethics Board, but I’m not pleased about it.   However, I will be seeking a legal opinion on the matter, which for now I’m still entitled to receive.  But moreover, I am disappointed at the continued efforts to shut the public out of important conversations.
Norwalk deserves better transparency.
Bryan Meek
Republican Common Council member representing District D
Milligan Settlement Offer to Norwalk Common Council (9.20.22)
Resolution

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9 comments

Patrick Cooper September 26, 2022 at 10:36 am

Thank you , Bryan Meek. It is truly refreshing to see some modicum of concern for the taxpayers, the true stakeholders. Settlements are common – unless the lawsuit isn’t about business – when it’s personal. Municipal governments should not operate based on vindictive / revenge based strategies, and thin skin is a bad look on septuagenarians.

The common theme here is – secrecy. Lawyers & NDA’s. Executive sessions. Decisions made in caucus. Behind all that – is utter contempt for the residents. It’s been going on ever since Harry was elected, and it seems to be getting worse.

Transparency. How does that square with this issue – which no one in Norwalk would be wise too if not for Bryan? How about the new middle school choice plans by the BOE/ Superintendent (made in March) that caught virtually every parent in Norwalk by surprise? How about the Morris settlement – which only received notice via the FOIA by this site? Want 20 more examples?

The continued Zoom meetings – no legitimate reason not to meet in person, except to shut out public comments & participation, to “control the narrative”. We can send all the kids and teachers back to school full time, we can host the Oyster Festival, and the boat show – but the 15 common council members can’t meet in person. Why? No – really – why?

Until this city comprehends what our elected officials are doing – and votes for a very different approach to governing, it’s only going to get worse.

Jason Milligan September 26, 2022 at 11:06 am

I purchased 5 properties from POKO in May of 2018. The properties were in terrible physical condition after years of neglect. All of the properties are now in great shape and full of amazing new tenants. I am helping improve Wall Street.

For 4.5 years the law office has been pursuing various legal solutions while the Tyvek Temple continues to be blighted.

When I purchased the POKO properties I had ambition that the people and government would have an open, honest discussion about the best paths forward. Sadly, that has not happened.

My new goal is to just get the City to adhere to the deal they made, and hope that the 2020 POKO Revamp gets completed. That project is better than nothing.

July 31, 2015 the ReEntry deal was recorded on the land records. That ReEntry is a remedy for a redeveloper default such as selling property to an unpermitted transferee like myself.

ReEnter and move on. The price and terms are already negotiated.

I feel confident that the people of Norwalk will support this solution. But my offer needs to be added to the council agenda so people can read it and express their opinion about it ON THE RECORD!

Fred Wilms September 26, 2022 at 1:04 pm

Kudos to Bryan for attempting to bring transparency. Wall Street is a mess. After 17 years of paralysis, we know what does not work – closed door, behind the scenes decision making. Let’s try something different – open, public discussions.

Bobby Lamb September 26, 2022 at 9:38 pm

On what planet would it make sense to tell the other side your legal strategy before trial? Also, is Meek proposing the City pay Milligan $3.5m to end the law suit? What?Seems like he’s more interested in “sticking a fork in the mayor’s eye” than looking out for the tax payers.

Jo Bennett September 26, 2022 at 9:43 pm

I smiled when making the left turn down the hill from East Avenue onto Wall Street last week, thanks to Jason Milligan. Happy murals and new businesses are a nice facelift to what was a tired-looking stretch for some time.

Thanks also to Bryan Meek for sharing this unnecessarily frustrating legal history. This city administration refuses to get out of its own way… and taxpayers keep paying the price of that ego.

Steve balazs September 26, 2022 at 10:05 pm

There’s a reason that negotiations are done privately and not in the public sphere. In 1788 they didn’t even let people take notes at the constitutional convention . I don’t doubt that Milligan wants his offer public since it seems that’ll help him and he’s in a difficult situation. Love to know where Milligan’s political contributions are going. If they’re going to the republicans and more specifically Mr. Meek that should be transparent too- and maybe the first sentence of the opinion piece.

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell September 27, 2022 at 9:07 am

Steve, Mr Milligan was an early big donor for Lisa Brinton, and Bryan Meek was her treasurer. Mr. Meek was not elected, as he took over Mr. Keegan’s seat when he moved to Florida. I believe Mr. Meek self funded his campaign for BOE.

I agree Mr. Milligan and the City are in a tough spot with this unfortunate situation. The litigation is regrettable and wasteful of time and money.

Bryan Meek September 27, 2022 at 10:18 am

On this planet, this petition was to have citizens be able to weigh in on the current offer in some silly hope that our city gets something done with this property before the Cubs win the World Series.

On some other planet, I guess the spin is that this is some attempt to get the parties to negotiate in public, instead of a simple opportunity for voices to be heard.

Back to this planet, the spin wins. No one gets to have any say on this matter other than lawyers who have failed miserably at bringing any rapid conclusion to the mess. We’ll just have to wait and see what they come up with when they aren’t busy defending Greenwich residents from development overreach.

As for the other inane replies here:

1. This project started its ill-fated path before the current administration. How does having a hole in the ground on the largest property on Wall St going on a decade help citizens and taxpayers?

2. I’ve never taken a nickel from anyone to run for office, including my election to the school board in 2015 and my re-election bid in 2019. I’ve always self-financed my campaigns. You must have me confused with someone who’s taken in over $500,000 over the years running for office.

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