Mangiacopra says he was left in the dark, NEON leadership must go

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Norwalk mayoral candidate Vinny Mangiacopra said Wednesday that he has been unable to get answers from NEON about the Community Town Hall planned for Wednesday evening.

Updated 7:20 p.m. Wednesday with NEON rebuttal.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk mayoral forum organized for Wednesday evening by South Norwalk’s anti-poverty agency has resulted in an early promise to the community by one Democratic mayoral candidate – leadership of that agency must go.

Although NEON (Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now) NEON Communications Director Scott Harris said in a press release that all of the mayoral candidates had been invited to the Wednesday evening Community Town Hall at the Nathaniel Ely School, Will Sharry of Norwalk’s Future Now said Tuesday that neither he nor his candidate, District D Democratic Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, knew anything about it until being contacted by a reporter.

Mangiacopra released a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“We received no invitation or information from NEON about tonight’s forum,” he said. “Once we learned about the forum Monday afternoon from a reporter call, we immediately called NEON to ask for information as we were eager to participate and discuss the pressing issues facing South Norwalk including affordable housing, police relations with the community, and the achievement gap. Unfortunately, our multiple calls and messages have not been returned.”

NEON Executive Director Pat Wilson Pheanious disputed Mangicopra’s claim Wednesday night at the event, saying three emails were sent to the Mangiacopra campaign. Harris said the first two emails went out well in advance, on May 31 and July 3, before the recent reminder.

Mangiacopra has been endorsed by Councilman Warren Peña. Peña has been embroiled in a public dispute with NEON over use of the building the agency shares with South Norwalk Community Center, a group headed by Peña. The councilman said recently that Norwalk’s elected leaders will not help NEON until there is a leadership change. Mangiacopra echoed that sentiment with the rest of his statement.

“As Mayor I will do everything in my power to help NEON as it attempts to start a new chapter in the Norwalk community, but serious changes need to be made before we can get there. I believe wholeheartedly in their stated mission of helping economically disadvantaged residents increase their self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life but NEON’s leadership has invited constant scandals to the point where their mission has become the secondary story. That is wrong. It wrongs the people who rely on NEON, it wrongs our community, it damages our city’s reputation and I do not believe that will change until the leadership of NEON changes.”

The announcement comes as NEON’s Board of Directors considers promoting NEON Chief Operating Officer Chiquita Stephenson to interim CEO and president for 18 months. The move was recommended by current interim CEO and president Pat Wilson Pheanious. Discussion of the proposal is on the agenda for NEON’s Aug. 6 board meeting, where board members plan to take the matter up in an executive session.

Board member Jack O’Dea said Stephenson has his full support. He indicated that other board members support her as well.

The matter was expected to be discussed at at July 24 board meeting, but the meeting was adjourned after 10 minutes without any action, after Chairman William Westcott said any action taken could be challenged in court as NEON was in violation of the Freedom of Information Act due to inadequate public notice. O’Dea was highly critical of that announcement, and said the meeting had been cancelled because leadership did not have the votes they wanted.


14 responses to “Mangiacopra says he was left in the dark, NEON leadership must go”

  1. NorwalkLifer

    Looks like at least one of the Democrats is willing to speak the truth. Can you believe Harry’s non-answer about NEON’s leadership? Has the guy taken any positions on anything yet? His slogan is proven leadership… on which issue has he shown it?

  2. Joe Espo

    Vinny’s take on the facts doesn’t pass the smell test. Obviously, Vinny was put up by Pena to embarrass NEON, as part of the running battle Pena is having with NEON over occupancy of the South Norwalk Community Center. If it were more important to participate in the debate than to stick it to NEON, Vinny would just shut up and show up. This is a is a small sample of Vinny’s style of vindictive politics that he’ll practice if elected mayor. This takes away from the schoolboy image of Vinny as the honest reformer and change agent.

  3. NorwalkVoter

    Brat shows his thuggery side. Just show up and behave. Not anyone’s fault that you and your staff don’t read emails.

  4. NorwalkLifer

    ^ talk about vindictive! yikes.

  5. NorwalkLifer

    Hey @NorwalkVoter, can you be specific about where vinny shows his thuggery side? The part where he followed up with phone calls to NEON asking for information about the event? Or the part where he called on NEON to refocus on their true mission of helping the underprivileged?

    Not checking email? Harry also said he didn’t get any info on it either. Obviously NEON is a joke and this is just a last minute PR stunt for their own image. Glad one Democrat calls them on it.

    And @JoeEspo, this shows Vinny won’t be a change agent and honest reformer? Aee you kidding? He is calling for change in leadership at NEON and better accountability in how the organization is run! You need to open your eyes.

    And lastly, please show me which other Dem candidate has taken a real stand on this issue. Show me the quote. I’m open minded. But so far I’ve seen plenty of non-answers…

  6. Hank Ryles

    Why is NEON hosting a forum tonight? It would make more sense to hold the forum after we know which specific candidates will be on the ballot for the September primary.

  7. NorwalkLifer

    Any Democratic candidate who shows up tonight is being used as a puppet by NEON to improve their image.

  8. JustAsking

    What has happened and continues to take place at NEON is an embarassment to the City. No candidate should be attending this forum.

  9. loveforthecity

    Good Job! Young Vinny looks like he completely understands Politics. On the other hang, NEON has no leadership with a brain to understand that they should wait until after the petitions are collected. Let’s see, they can’t manage their finances properly, they have staffing, programming problems but want to be in the news for politics? Does this make any sense?

  10. Norwalk Lifer

    Disappointing and complete stuff and nonsense, I am not interested in the fancied slight a mayoral candidate alleges. If this young yet, inexperienced man understood level headedness, he would not make himself the specter of sensationalism.

    it is oh, so easy to pick on a bloodied chicken in the barnyard, but I remind everyone, animals with brains the size of peas do that, not aspiring humans who wish to run a town of such diversity as this. So what that he was not invited? he was there, made his statements, I find this young man’s actions egotistical to the max; and that’s exactly what is wrong with the current mayor, we don’t need to change the stripes and keep the zebra

    Norwalk Lifer

  11. Suzanne

    Norwalk Lifer: Mike Miklave’s answer to NON re: Neon and plans:

    “I think NEON can regain the trust of the city once the current administration, which has been openly at war with this important anti-poverty agency, is voted out of office. It is ironic how quickly some officials condemned NEON and its staff, even though many of them were then serving as members of the NEON Board of Directors and thus complicit in the issues the agency faced.
    “But I have a different view of this agency. I believe that the new Board of Directors, which has promised a fresh start, will be able to work through the difficult financial and structural issues this agency faces. As mayor, I will support the work of the new Board of Directors and staff to reform this agency, insure it is in compliance with all federal, state and local rules and regulations, and re-energize the support of the community. My administration will offer whatever technical and financial assistance and support it can to help in these efforts.
    “Any financial assistance will be conditioned on complete openness and transparency with respect to accounting and auditing.”

    I believe this is called a “real stand on this issue.”

  12. Suzanne

    Yikes! MATT Miklave.

  13. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Uninformed, disorganized, scapegoating, and being a cry baby aren’t the kind of traits this city needs in its mayor. No wonder no one will hire this kid for any kind of real job.

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