Could Norwalk’s years of POKO litigation be coming to an end? Depends who you ask

NORWALK — With four years of litigation on the books and thousands spent on legal fees, the city attorney believes the end is in sight for the two lawsuits with a local realtor.

However, real estate broker Jason Milligan thinks otherwise, saying there is ‘no chance’ the years of litigation will end anytime soon.

Norwalk company attorney Mario Coppola said he believes the two lawsuits involving the city and Milligan will be concluded within a year, but not before Norwalk spends thousands more on the litigation.

Speaking at last week’s Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting, Coppola requested an additional $144,000 from the company’s attorney to cover costs incurred in tax appeals and litigation with Milligan.

“I hope you will grant this additional amount of $144,000. It will be enough to pay all the bills we have by the end of the financial year,” Coppola said. “But I just want the board to understand that these costs are really out of our control. For example, in tax appeal cases, to find out when there are certain delays with the court and what costs we incur with assessors as a result.

The request was originally about $180,000 but was reduced when the department accounted for funds saved by not paying a salary to an assistant company attorney, a position the city is still seeking to fill, Coppola said. .

A few large tax assessment appeals contribute significantly to legal costs, Coppola said.

“We anticipate significant additional costs for professional services, including appraiser fees, for ongoing commercial property tax appraisal appeals,” Coppola written in a letter to the BET. “In the other cases, I estimate there is well over $200 million of fair market value in dispute.”

In addition to the tax assessment fee, Coppola said the city continues to incur expenses associated with the two lawsuits involving Milligan, one initiated by the city and the other filed by the developer under a legal entity.

“We continue to incur significant costs in the ongoing lawsuits involving the Milligan defendants regarding the POKO redevelopment project,” Coppola said.

The first of Milligan’s lawsuits dates back to 2018 and was filed by the city and the redevelopment agency against the developer and others, according to the state court database.

The second lawsuit, filed by Milligan against the city, was filed in May 2019. While the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the city were named as plaintiffs, the city was dropped from the lawsuit in June 2019, according to the judicial database.

Although he was off the case for three years, Coppola said the city has ongoing charges.

“The case he (Milligan) filed against the Redevelopment Agency, which also initially included the city…we were out of it, but we were still heavily involved and incurred costs resulting from the case, even after we weren’t technically a party anymore,” Coppola said. “The court ruled in favor of the Redevelopment Agency on a motion for summary judgment. This is quite extraordinary for a case of this importance and with so many facts that the court found with the facts that were undisputed, as a matter of law a judgment should be rendered in favor of the public parties.

In the city-filed case against Milligan, Coppola said a trial is scheduled for September, and he’s optimistic the case will be concluded within a year or even by the end of 2022.

“There is an end in sight when it comes to litigation,” Coppola said.

Both lawsuits were launched following land disputes as part of Wall Street Place’s plan to revitalize the area. POKO Partners LLC spearheaded the Wall Street Place project when it was founded, according to court documents.

A motion for summary judgment to settle Milligan’s lawsuit against city agencies has been set for May 12, but Milligan said he’s sure the case won’t end there.

“There are years and years and years of litigation,” Milligan said. “It’s not ending anytime soon, no chance. He (Coppola) should be very specific about how it will end and how it will not be appealed.

Milligan said he would be happy to work with the city and find a compromise in the ongoing lawsuits, but doesn’t understand why the city is still facing charges over a case in which Norwalk was fired three years ago. years.

“The truth is the opposite,” Milligan said. “It’s been four years and they keep changing, they keep making amends, they keep screwing up.”

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