By Warren A. Peña
Norwalk Common Council
President & Chairman of the Board
South Norwalk Community Center, Inc.
To the Editor:
NORWALK, Conn. – With the commissioner of the Department of Social Services now stepping into the hiring process of NEON’s new executive director, it is very clear what needs to happen. I agree with the commissioner that the CEO search should be an open and fair process. The next CEO needs to be a high-caliber, credentialed visionary.
The current leadership of their staff continues to engage in the same bad practices. Interim CEO Patricia Wilson has been coerced and should not be allowed to make any recommendations. Her own COO has no integrity when lying about her education on a resume and should be fired immediately.
Chiquita Stephenson has mismanaged the relationship with the South Norwalk Community Center; frankly spearheaded the strong-arm tactic to squeeze or try to dissolve SNCC. She has applied for state and federal grants submitting lies about her education. What leader shuts off their partner/ co-owner’s phones, Internet access twice without notice? How can a leader state in front of SNCC and NEON attorney’s that she takes funds from the HHD (Human Hispanic Development) grant and utilize it for non HHD programs and services including salaries that do not pertain to that grant or contract? Isn’t that what got their former CEO in trouble? I believe that is a misappropriation of funds, a violation of terms and conditions known as a breach of contract.
Chiquita has demonstrated that she does not have the leadership skills it takes to run 200 employees and $15 million budget. Are we to stand by and allow someone with no more than a high school diploma earn $130,000 plus of tax payer dollars, when they lie about their credentials and education? How do you trust this person?
With all the new bad press NEON is getting because of her lies, now she is out there claiming to sue everyone that has done their due diligence in truly bringing to light the truth about her education?
Norwalk has a ton of highly qualified, educated people that can do this job. NEON will not be able to move forward with the same folks who share responsibility for what happened to them under the former administration. It is time that we as a community step up and help the new NEON board finish the job that this current staff started.
Now that this new board seems to be moving in the right direction to change the perception, it is time for the board to cleanse the old guard from their staff. They have not shown true leadership. As long as the same staff is present, there will be no working relationship with SNCC. As chair of the board, I cannot work with those who are engaged in fraudulent activities.
I have been in leadership for 8 out 10 years at a financial firm in my professional career. If someone contracted to me lied about their education, there would be no more questions asked. They would be fired immediately!
Warren A. Peña
(Editor’s note: Chiquita Stephenson, in an interview with The Hour newspaper, said she did, in fact, graduate from NCC, and that the transcript someone obtained, allegedly in her name, was wrong. The Hour story continued to raise questions about her resume, which claims an associate’s degree in political science.)