NEON board chairman: We’re already working on audit recommendations

NEON 019-20131107
Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board of Directors Chairman Michael Berkoff.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board of Directors Chairman Michael Berkoff acknowledged in an email press release Sunday night the contents of a draft audit released in September and said the agency has already taken steps to comply with recommendations in the final audit released Friday.

The audit was conducted for the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) covering the period from Jan. 1, 2012 to June 20, 2013. The draft, and the final audit, made references to problems that continued well into the fall, including missed response deadlines, missed payrolls and unreported Head Start shutdowns.

“Michael Berkoff has read the final audit and understands the concerns communicated in this audit report,” the release stated. “However, Mr. Berkoff, speaking on behalf of the NEON board, noted that the agency has taken steps to address the overall concerns specified in the audit report.”

Among those steps, the release stated, are “reorganizing senior management staff, examining internal financial control procedures and implementing best practices in the operation of NEON, as well as services provided to its client base.”

Those steps include former interim president and CEO Chiquita Stephenson going on unpaid leave, appointing the Rev. Tommie Jackson of Stamford as her replacement, laying off about 100 employees and shutting down several programs, and working to rapprochement with South Norwalk Community Center, with which they share a building.

“Mr. Berkoff expressed hope about the future of the agency in stating that NEON staff are now working assiduously to restore programs, client confidence and overall integrity to NEON,” the release said.

The release said Berkoff would be consulting the incoming mayor of Norwalk, Harry Rilling, and Stamford’s Mayor-elect David Martin, “to provide updates and seek their input on the many important matters concerning NEON and the people served by the anti-poverty agency in both municipalities.”

In related NEON news, there is no change in the status of the Norwalk Head Start program, according to NEON spokesman Scott Harris. NEON’s contract to run the program was suspended Oct. 24 for a minimum of 30 days, and a Colorado-based Community Development Institute was brought in to run the program on an interim basis. The resumption of services has been hung up in negotiations over the use of the Nathaniel Ely and Benjamin Franklin schools, as NEON has separate contracts to use those facilities.


8 responses to “NEON board chairman: We’re already working on audit recommendations”

  1. ScopeonNorwalk

    NEON may be a lost cause but I want to know what Harry Rilling plans to do to get workers laid off back to work somewhere. These are people who were working and want to work. A lot of people went on the word of Carleton Giles that Rilling would do something for our community but on day 1, the minority Asst City Clerk is the first person to lose their job at City Hall. Is this what we have to look forward to?

    1. Mark Chapman


      To be clear, the assistant city clerk is a council appointment, not a mayoral appointment. The council majority apparently wanted to retain the previous mayor’s city clerk. Mr. Rilling campaigned on, among other things, diversity. We hope there is follow-through, and we will be watching.

  2. @Scope,
    What??? I don’t understand why the mayor needs to have a plan to give these people jobs!!! These people should get out and get their own jobs – just like the rest of America when they are laid off. Besides, the mayor didn’t lay these people off and is under no obligation to “give” them another job.
    To get another job they have to go through the job process (just like the rest of America) and go through interviews after submitting their resumes.
    Yes, there are PLENTY of people out here who were working and want to go back to work but it’s called the job hunt and they now have to get out and join in on the hunt.

  3. malcolm

    I certainly hope NEON isn’t waiting until Nov 24 in hopes of having the HS program returned to them. Move all HS to BFC. Move SR and CDC to ELY. At least HS will be able to open. They won’t have to share the building with NEON. Need help organizing? Just email.

  4. malcolm

    Why hasn’t the community been officially notified of NEON’s intention to remain closed?

    Mr Berkoff needs to make it official so funders will be able to secure other grantees for childcare slots.

  5. amazed

    Neon’s childcare is closed because they haven’t paid the staff since October 14th.

  6. The Norwalker


    The fact that Mayor Moccia spent the Headstart designated money on other projects means that he never intended to pay NEON. The actions of NEON Senior Management and Mayor Moccia means that these employees never had a chance.

    This many non-profit workers entering the regional workforce will be hard on the NEON workers, especially since Mayor Moccia chose a out of state company to do a job that a Connecticut Company/Organization could have done.

  7. Norwalker,
    The FACT that the mayor gave back the money to the people who EARNED it in the first place just shows me that he is a upstanding guy. Never intending to pay – well that is just an assumption on your part (and you know what it said about making assumptions).
    MY GOD, once again, you think Moccia is to blame when it is Mann, Phinny and Chicky to start with but yet you keep blaming “da man”. WHAT DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND, Moccia (or Rilling) don’t have much say in this organization. Go talk to Bruce Morris and ask him.
    These laid off workers are responsible for themselves and the fact that YOU keep wanting to blame the old mayor and have the new mayor provide jobs just keeps reinforcing the fact that you liberal lefties are JUST CONTINUING TO LOOK FOR HANDOUTS FROM THE “HAVES” BECAUSE YOU ARE THE “HAVE NOTS”. TYPICAL OF YOUR KIND.

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