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Officials: Letter a ‘confession’ in Henderson land lawsuit

It’s not every day that a lawyer accused of participating in a fraud scheme sends a written apology to the victim, but that is what Henderson officials say a lawyer working with controversial developer Chris Milam did last fall.


In court papers filed Friday, Henderson’s legal team blistered Milam’s lawyer, John Marchiano, and presented an email and a handwritten letter from Marchiano that indicate he was deeply troubled by knowledge that Milam wasn’t going to build a pro sports stadium-arena complex as promised.

In the Nov. 30 email to City Attorney Josh Reid, Marchiano – a widely known Henderson lawyer and city attorney in the 1980s – said he was having “sleepless nights” over the matter. Just two days earlier, Milam had told the city the project was not financially viable, well after city officials discovered he was shopping the land for home construction. Milam was in line to take control of the land only because of Henderson’s backing, and the city did so in belief that only a stadium complex would be built there.

“I simply didn’t know any way to uphold my ethical responsibilities to (Milam) and not put you in an impossible position; for that I am beyond sorry,” Marchiano wrote. “I want you to know that if there was any other way to protect my client’s interest, I would have done it. But the potential of losing our relationship is truly distressing.”

In the Dec. 16 handwritten letter to Reid, Marchiano wrote, “Most of the people I associate with are people who can do things for me; I use them they use me. There is an innate skepticism and hypocrisy in those relationships. I know what a hypocrite I can be. Josh, it is important to me that you know that I had no idea what Milam was doing in marketing the property. I’ve never met with Milam except with City officials; I never saw the ‘marketing’ materials until you sent them to me.”

In the letter, Marchiano appears to be trying to curry favor with Reid, whom he showers with praise, calling him “a special person” with “a special gift for the City Atty position.”

Inexplicably, Marchiano closes the letter by telling Reid “just so you know – I didn’t tell Milam about the ‘Hug.’ ”

The city’s legal team highlighted the email and letter Friday in asking the Clark County District Court to prohibit Milam from using the 480 acres for anything but an arena-stadium complex if the Bureau of Land Management transfers the land to Milam as scheduled Wednesday .

The email and letter amount to Marchiano’s confession that Milam was lying to city officials about his plans to build an ambitious sports complex that would include an arena for an NBA or NHL team and a stadium for a Major League Soccer team and the National Finals Rodeo on the BLM land, according to the court papers.

“Why was Marchiano unable to sleep for so many nights if he – allegedly – had no idea regarding what (Milam) was doing? And why is Marchiano ‘beyond sorry’ if, as he claims, he has nothing to be sorry for? The answers are obvious: Marchiano knew exactly what Milam was doing, and stood idly by waiting to get paid,” the city’s attorneys wrote in court papers filed Friday.

In an affidavit, Reid said Marchiano expected to collect a success fee of at least $1 million.

In his letter, Marchiano told Reid, “I wish I had done things differently. I have no right to expect anything from you. I will do my best to learn from this; and not repeat the same mistake. Thanks again Josh for extending what I don’t deserve.”

In court papers, the city’s lawyers are less forgiving.

“Marchiano’s written confession raises another important question: Why did Marchiano wish that he had done things differently if he – allegedly – did nothing wrong to begin with? The answer is obvious: Marchiano, a self-professed hypocrite and user of others – including City officials – knew exactly what he was doing.”

Milam and Marchiano are among five defendants sued by the city in hopes of blocking Milam’s use of the land for anything other than a sports complex. The other defendants are lawyer Christopher Stephens, land consultant and former BLM official Michael Ford and public relations consultant Lee Haney.

Ford, who simultaneously represented both Milam and the city on the BLM land deal, also stands to make at least $1 million in success fees at the sale close, Reid said in an affidavit.

Las Vegas lawyer Jacob Hafter, who is representing Marchiano, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Earlier this week Hafter said his client never confessed to knowing about the alleged bait-and-switch land scheme and was unaware of any plan to market the land for housing rather than the stadium complex Henderson desires.

A court hearing on the city’s injunction request is set for Tuesday – one day before the sale of the land is scheduled to close.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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