Henderson hopes to widen land-deal suit to include consulting firm with BLM ties

Las Vegas National Sports Center

A rendering of the proposed Las Vegas National Sports Center three-stadium complex in downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas National Sports Complex

Artist rendering of the proposed Las Vegas National Sports Complex in Henderson. Launch slideshow »

Henderson city officials want to expand the reach of their lawsuit against developer Chris Milam and those who worked with him on a proposed sports-arena complex.

Lawyers for City Hall filed court papers last week saying they want to add consulting firm Abbey, Stubbs & Ford LLC to the list of defendants accused of using a city-approved development pact to buy public land at a cheap price and then sell for profit to other developers.

The Henderson-based firm is poised to earn a $528,000 fee when Milam’s Silver State Land LLC formally acquires the 480-acre project site near the M Resort from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, according to the city. The escrow-closing date has been extended twice in recent months and now is set for March 28.

One of the original defendants in the lawsuit is Michael Ford, a partner in the land and energy consulting firm. His partners, who were not named as defendants, are Bob Abbey and Barry Stubbs.

Click to enlarge photo

Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, speaks during a dedication ceremony at the Enbridge Silver State North Solar Project in Primm, May 7, 2012.

Abbey was a founding partner in the firm in 2005 but left in 2009 to become director of the BLM. He rejoined the consulting group last June after retiring from the agency, according to the firm’s website.

In a previous court filing this month, lawyers for City Hall said it’s “unknown what level of involvement Abbey had at the BLM” in connection with the land sale, but “it is clear that Ford spoke with him about the sale and, as a result, was assured of the ‘full support and cooperation at the local, regional and national level’ from the BLM.”

According to the city, Abbey was the BLM’s director when his old consulting firm — then known as Robcyn LLC — initially was hired to work on Milam’s project. Abbey “is likely” to now share in the firm’s contingency fee once Milam closes escrow, the city alleged.

Efforts to reach the firm for comment Monday night were not immediately successful.

Milam, who lives in Texas, laid out plans for an indoor arena and three stadiums in Henderson as part of the Las Vegas Sports National Sports Complex, though no teams have committed to the facilities. The combined price was expected to be more than $1 billion.

The city of Henderson on Jan. 28 sued Milam, his lawyers John Marchiano and Christopher Stephens, Ford, and public relations-lobbying chief Lee Haney in Clark County District Court. The lawsuit came two months after Milam allegedly deposited the balance of the land’s $10.5 million purchase price into escrow and, that same day, hand-delivered a letter to City Hall saying he was terminating the project agreement because the arena plans were not viable.

In September 2011, the Henderson City Council approved an initial project agreement with Milam’s group and voted to support the BLM land sale.

In its lawsuit, the city sought a judgment declaring that the group’s development agreement remains in full force, as well as a court order that bars the defendants from selling or developing the land for any uses not outlined in the agreement. The city also sought unspecified punitive damages.

Stephens recently paid $750 to settle the accusations against him.

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