Duff: NEON likely to be replaced by a new Norwalk CAP agency

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25), left, joins Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) transitional CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson, right, and state Rep. Chris Perone (D-137) for an announcement in December in this file photo.

NORWALK, Conn. – The need to continue services for Norwalk’s needy is the reason it has taken so long for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) to determine a course of action as bankruptcy looms, state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) said.

“That’s always been very important,” Duff said. “If this has taken longer than anybody thought it might, it’s because we’re really focused on helping to ensure that the services are still here in Norwalk, however this all plays itself out, so that if they’re in bankruptcy and there’s a new CAP (Community Action Program) agency the services are all here in Norwalk and not someplace else.”

NEON leaders and city officials have been looking into Chapter 7 bankruptcy for the agency, which would mean liquidation, or Chapter 11, which would mean reorganization, at least since December, when it became public knowledge during a board meeting.

“I think either way, NEON as we know it ceases to exist and a new CAP agency at some point is formed,” Duff said.

It isn’t possible to decertify a CAP agency and have a new one ready to step into its place, Duff said.

“There are two parts to NEON right now,” Duff said. “One is the judicial end, which is bankruptcy. The second part is decertification. You can’t decertify one agency and then certify a new CAP agency at the same time, from what I understand. That can’t be parallel. I believe you can do bankruptcy and decertification in a parallel fashion.

“I believe if it’s voluntary decertification it can take a few months,” he continued. “If it’s involuntary decertification it can take up to a year and a half. … I believe it will be voluntary.”

NEON board Chairman Mike Berkoff said in February that NEON is eligible for $1.2 million in state funding to rebuild the agency, but fellow board member Jack O’Dea told NancyOnNorwalk on Monday that it is unlikely that NEON or the people involved would try to re-establish a CAP agency.

Will NEON go Chapter 7 or 11?

“My sense is that – I don’t know this for sure, I don’t want to say, but my sense is that they will file and liquidate their assets,” Duff said. But, “There’s not a whole lot of assets there.”

While NEON owns a few buildings, it does not have enough assets to pay its debts, Duff said.

Mayor Harry Rilling has said that dealing with NEON has taken a large chunk of his time. That includes phone calls with NEON transitional CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson every other day.

Rilling said Monday that Jackson said there would be a development by early May.

“I don’t know what the timeline is, but I would probably agree with that,” Duff said.

The important thing is that NEON’s clients continue to get the help they need in Norwalk, not in Bridgeport or Danbury, where there are already CAP agencies, Duff said. They also need to get one-stop shopping in Norwalk, which means that 98 South Main St. will probably be the home of whatever CAP agency rises from NEON’s ashes, Duff said.

“You don’t want to have it, obviously, in different towns, but you also don’t want to have services that are in multiple locations throughout the city of Norwalk,” Duff said. “The idea of NEON, one of the things, is to have services in one-stop shopping. That’s part of the HSI (Human Services Infrastructure) model. That’s important so that when people come in we serve as kind of a whole, all the needs, not just one piece of it, because the goal of NEON is to help people that are in poverty but also get them out of poverty. So if it comes to food stamps or health care or fuel assistance or job training whatever it is, it’s all in one place not multiple locations, inside or outside the city. Those discussions take time to work out and that’s part of the overall process we’ve been dealing with over the last six to nine months.”


5 responses to “Duff: NEON likely to be replaced by a new Norwalk CAP agency”

  1. John Hamlin

    If a new CAP agency is set up, there should be care to make sure that no one responsible for the NEON debacle (and even though no one will be held accountable, there are many responsible) has any involvement in the new agency. End the incompetence and corruption!!

  2. Oldtimer

    John Hamlin:
    While your suggestion makes sense, until those responsible, by incompetence or chicanery, are identified and held accountable, how would it be possible to keep them out of any new agency ?

  3. Piberman

    Missing from the discussion is that NEON has been a “community based” effort but that our minority elected and appointed officials and citizens have not previously taken responsibility for its success. Unless that “omission” in civic duties is corrected why should anyone expect a better result with a future or revamped organization ? Photo ops do not resolve that critical question. How can any NEON type organization ever be successful if the minority community leadership doesn’t “step up to the plate” and do the hard work to ensure success ?

  4. K.W.

    Whats that saying? How many politicians does it take to screw in a light bulb? As many as there are up for reelection. They all want to be in the spotlight but have trouble handling the heat from all that light. Hey guys, last one out, flip the switch to OFF. Light bill that conservatives rant over and carbon foot print jazz and all that stuff that gets liberals all in a huff about. Now, Lucy Ricardo, splain this; “If it’s involuntary decertification it can take up to a year and a half.” Did we, or did we not hear that, starting what, 2 years ago? Mayor Rilling is correct, he is spending allot of time to resolve this but apparently, making no headway at all. Getting stonewalled like everyone else. Any bets that in another six months we will still be hearing about bankruptcy, decertification and/or certification as roadblocks again? I mean really, cmon guys, this isn’t that difficult as some, are leading the public to believe. The mission is about serving the community, not self serving behaviors. Harry, your the only guy that can get the gears moving, you have the power and we all know, the will. Make it happen chief, people need these services, now, not next year or the year after but NOW, hence the title. If diplomacy doesn’t work than up your game and kick some tail. You are, our duly elected, and liked we might add, leader with authority to conduct the peoples business, so lead. Use that authority and influence. You need help, just reach out, help is out here, in the community, with non profits and corporate partners. The rewards, for bold swift action, obviously will help the community sooner rather than later and certainly, would be a political score to get that CAP up and running and on line by the holidays. Look nice up on the score board in your office wouldn’t it? Maybe even a plaque somewhere. Ya know chief? One question for Mr Jackson. If NEON can not and does not pay court ordered restitution’s for the pension and insurance with holdings that were never paid yet deducted from employees pay. Does Mr Jackson expect to be compensated? Last we were told he had deferred compensation but the details have not been made public. Deffer how much, for how long and for what services? Are his services itemized? Bankruptcy will require documentation of services rendered if Mr Jackson wants his slice whatever pie is left. Is there a belief that NEONs liquidated assets will cover the court ordered payments, Jackson and the staff remaining? What about the lawyers and associated fees. Hard to reconcile that these issues and more have not been dealt with, still. The same issues on the table that were there last summer, even the summer before really. Only checks and egos kept progress from occurring. Harry, this is either going to be a shining moment in your career or an albatross around your respectable record. Its your move Harry, it really is. Lets get it moving, if oil and heat doesn’t work than break out that sledge hammer and give that gear a few good swings. But lets get it going. Its vital to the community. And yes one stop for all to access all available services, including state and federal programs, is just common sense. Something many seem to be short on these days as everyone is all stressed out. One more question. NEON has been stripped bare. Where did everything go? Computers, copiers, faxes, LCD TVs projectors, phones, desks, only thing left are the plastic seats. Where was all that property removed to?

  5. Casey Smith

    @K.W. –

    “Any bets that in another six months we will still be hearing about bankruptcy, decertification and/or certification as roadblocks again? ”

    PLEASE GOD. NO!!!!!!

    NEON handled the the fuel allocations last year and it was horrible for those who depending on those fuel deliveries. A number of the elderly went cold because of the continual SNAFUs.

    Put FINIS to this disaster and let’s all move on. There must be another non-profit out there that can handle the fuel bank in a timely and consistent manner.

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