NORWALK, Conn. – A South Norwalk activist has finally taken court action in his long-standing complaint against a severely troubled South Norwalk anti-poverty agency.
John Mosby, a former board member of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), filed suit against the agency and the Connecticut Department of Social Services, alleging that NEON changed its by-laws and forced Mosby and other elected board members illegally out on Dec. 12, 2007.
“Me and Dumas are not letting up now,” Mosby said of Ernie Dumas of A Better South Norwalk. “He made up his mind, me and him got to talking, said they can get mad all they want. We’re going to walk it home now.”
The goal is to reinstate the election of local people to the NEON board, he said.
Mosby and Dumas allege that NEON has not had food to feed its clients.
Dumas said several weeks ago he got a call from Nathaniel Ely School.
“The lady in the kitchen told me there was no food for the (Head Start) children,” Dumas said. “There was no food there, and I got upset. …I went to NEON and I started rumpus. They called the police on me. … I’m torn up inside.”
“I’m going to back him up,” Mosby said. “Because it’s wrong for them to take that money from the food and can’t feed the children and moving that money, paying themselves over there.”
Mosby, a board member from 1999 to 2007, said that in 2007 the NEON board, led by Carvin Hilliard, voted to kick the 11 elected community members off the board. The vote was illegal because the then 33-member board did not have a quorum, he said.
“They picked who they want and we were gone,” he said. “They got rid of the elected ones.”
His complaints to DSS have not resulted in action, he said.
The by-laws have been changed by former CEO and President Joe Mann and former interim CEO and President Pat Wilson Pheanious, he said. That is illegal, he said.
Mosby has paperwork from 2004/2005 showing bylaws that specify Norwalk’s mayor shall appoint 11 public officials to NEON’s board. If that hadn’t been changed, it would be illegal for Mayor Richard Moccia to deny funding to the agency, he said.
The complaint, signed Sept. 10, names former NEON interim CEO and President Pat Wilson Pheanious, former NEON board Chairman William Westcott and DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby. The return date on the summons is Tuesday, in Stamford Superior Court.
Mosby seeks compensatory damages to cover court fees and attorney fees. He seeks to have the 33-member board re-instated, with 11 people from the private sector, 11 from the public sector and 11 members elected by the community.
“They can get all the board they want. I’m going to knock this here board out. I’m going to say, ‘You can run here, you can put new board on here – you’re still illegal. You’ve got no business being in there.’ When I get Pat I’m going to say, ‘You’re the one who put them in there. Who gave you the right to say, executive director?’”
Dumas and Mosby feel that executive staff of the agency are paid too much.
“We are not trying to hurt NEON,” Mosby said. “We’re trying to make sure the money is going where its going.”
“No one wants NEON to fail,” Dumas said. “They just want the people running it to be gone.”