Consulting firm with direct BLM ties is added to lawsuit over failed stadium

The city of Henderson received court approval to add a local consulting firm as a defendant in its fraud case against would-be sports arena developer Chris Milam, and also got clearance to push ahead with efforts to block Milam from buying the project site.

District Court Judge Susan W. Scann also dismissed the city's original fraud and conspiracy allegations against Milam's group, though city officials say they'll soon file an amended complaint with new allegations.

At a court hearing Thursday, Scann granted a motion by City Hall to add Henderson consulting firm Abbey, Stubbs & Ford LLC to the group of defendants.

Collectively, the group is accused of using a city-approved development pact to buy 480 acres of government-owned desert near the M Resort for the proposed Las Vegas National Sports Complex and then trying to sell the land for profit to other developers.

One original defendant in the lawsuit is Michael Ford, a partner in the consulting firm. His partner Bob Abbey, who is not named as a defendant, was a founding partner there in 2005 but left in 2009 to become director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He rejoined the consulting firm last June after retiring from the agency, which owns Milam’s project site.

Lawyers for City Hall have said in court papers that 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.”

At the hearing Thursday, Scann also rejected efforts by Milam’s legal team to essentially let him acquire and develop the property as he sees fit. City officials want a court order to prevent that, but Milam's lawyers wanted the judge to dismiss the proposal for the order.

She is scheduled on March 18 to consider the city’s request.

Efforts to reach an Abbey, Stubbs & Ford representative for comment Thursday night were unsuccessful.

Milam laid out plans for an indoor arena and three stadiums in Henderson, though no teams have committed to the facilities.

In late January, the city sued him and several other people working with him on the deal.