NEON board members praise ‘godsend’ Jackson

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) interim CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson speaks to NEON board member Dale Ferguson on Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. – Leadership of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) is heaping praise on the Rev. Tommie Jackson for his work untangling the mess he walked into at the crumbling South Norwalk anti-poverty agency, even as that untangling may well mean sending the agency into bankruptcy.

“The guy has been a godsend,” NEON board chairman Mike Berkoff said of Jackson, who was appointed interim CEO and president in November after employee paychecks bounced. “He’s been excellent, he was the right person to bring in. He has been able to go back to the funders and get funding with paperwork that was not submitted properly.”

Jackson has been able to get money that was due six to eight months ago to try to pay employees and other expenses, Berkoff said. Thursday, Jackson said at a NEON board meeting that employees would be receive checks Friday covering Nov. 25 through Dec. 6.

NancyOnNorwalk has since heard reports that employees did not receive their full paychecks Friday, instead getting checks covering Nov. 28-29. Berkoff promised to look into it Friday night.

Berkoff said Jackson is still working as a volunteer – 60 to 70 hours a week, he said. When and if NEON comes up with the funds, after all employees are brought up to date with what they are owed, Jackson will be paid at a rate of $128,000 a year, Berkoff said. That is less than the reported $160,000 allotted previously for the position, and less than the $135,000 former interim NEON chief Chiquita Stephenson recently said she was accepting before being placed on unpaid leave.

The agency is considering going bankrupt, as reported here Friday. Board member Jack O’Dea said NEON owes “a little bit over $4 million” to creditors.

He again mentioned the funding cut from Norwalk’s budget by former Mayor Richard Moccia, as well as the fact that NEON continued services that were no longer funded under the leadership of interim CEO and President Pat Wilson Pheanious.

“Moccia pulls out that 2.6 million and the services weren’t cut,” he said. “The political stuff should have been dumped in his lap.”

Board member Dale Ferguson said Thursday that Jackson was not providing detailed financial reports. Jackson responded that he had sent an email on Dec. 3 that outlined the agency’s finances. Board member Michael Geake and Ferguson said they hadn’t gotten it.

Berkoff said Friday that he had gotten the email. O’Dea spoke of Ferguson with skepticism. Ferguson has been publicly supportive of Stephenson.

“The big issue with Dale Ferguson since this whole board has become under such scrutiny is she doesn’t live in any of these towns that are represented by NEON,” he said.

Jackson is in the process of identifying NEON’s weaknesses, the lack of accounting and checks and balances with procedures, he said.

“We’re trying to find out what we don’t know so far,” O’Dea said. “There are probably a lot of skeletons in closets but we don’t know.”

Jackson communicates with them every day, Berkoff and O’Dea said, in phone calls that go to midnight. He’s doing a great job, O’Dea said.

“People don’t know he is also a lawyer,” he said. “He’s not a dope. He’s a smart guy and he’s motivated and he’s working hard.”


17 responses to “NEON board members praise ‘godsend’ Jackson”

  1. Dawn

    If he is such a smart guy why was he so unprepared.
    His only job right now is to fix the financials and now discuss bankruptcy. And he does not have the records. He should have runs to the copy machine and copied his own. I am sure he had his own that was all marked up. No? And yet the bd members had no problem with this.
    Verbal assurances are not enough that is what got neon info this mssss.
    And why are they maligning ferguson. Talk about throwing your friends under the bus. Of course I don’t agree withheld about chicky , but why all of sudden note she does not live in any of the towns. It never mattered before.

  2. Dawn

    Every board member forgot their copy of the financials and corcor fhat it had been emailed. I think not. Who is lying. .

  3. The Norwalker

    What about all the state programs he lost, because he was spending so much time focusing on Headstart? What he has gained Norwalk is a Headstart Program run by a out of State Organization.

    I know of a couple of State Programs that withdrew their Programs because of lack of communication from the “New CEO”

  4. cc-rider

    How can these board members say this stuff with a straight face? Were they sleep walking for the past few years? Patting the Reverend on the back points out to their own ineptness rather than any sort compliment to the job he is currently doing.

  5. Let’s Be Honest!

    Ferguson has been publicly supportive of Stephenson. Is Mr. O’Dea kidding? No one over many, many months was more publicly supportive of Ms. Stephenson than the one and only Jack O’Dea. The unwavering support by both Jack and Dale were true detriments to progress and transparency. Refer back to many, many articles covered by NancyOnNorwalk for the real story.

  6. Just Wondering

    There has been some slight improvements but it’s way too soon to start congratulating Jackson when there is much needed work and investigation to be done.

  7. Oldtimer

    It is encouraging that some of the board is happy with Rev Jackson and impressed with how hard he is working to sort out the mess that is NEON’s financial records. It is not as encouraging that he is talking about bankruptcy, but that may be unavoidable. It sounds like he needs a secretary to handle jobs like getting proper financials to board members ahead of meetings and hard copies at meetings. Is there any chance he will get all the programs NEON ran back on track ?

  8. M Allen

    4 million in the hole. How can they not file bankruptcy? What does it put in jeopardy if they don’t go that route? Is there really anything some party can go after or does NEON just fade away leaving the debt? And what is Jack O’Dea still doing lurking around the closets? Many a director are one of those skeletons, but his front and center position is pretty surprising given his backing of the former leaderships during the long decline.

  9. WHAT?

    M Allen, you are right on. O’Dea came on the board at the request of Stephenson in April and spent the following six months locked at the hip with her and getting nasty with any board member that suggested Stephenson and her high school diploma were not up to the job of running an 18m operation. Basically, 6 board members left all at once in September because they were confident they couldnt get any real information from, specifically, STEPHENSON AND ODEA. His is the first closet that should receive a subpoena.

  10. The Norwalker

    $128,000 is far too much money for a CEO of a Organization that has no programs!! Their biggest program now is providing building services for the Organizations that rent space in their buildings.

    My second question– Why is the CFO that is partially responsible for all of this mess still employed at NEON?

  11. jlightfield

    @oldtimer, a secretary? That’s a joke right? Modern CEOs know how to email, read a spreadsheet, and by golly print a copy out. Sheesh.

  12. Oldtimer

    You would think, but, apparently this modern CEO didn’t get the memo about how to run the copier. It wasn’t meant as a joke. He is reported to be working god awful hours and missing some of the simpler stuff that could easily be handled by a secretary, even an intern working a couple of hours a day.

  13. questions

    Do Jackson have a contract? If he stated he will not get paid until his staff get paid. Does that mean he will go back to when he stated to get paid?

  14. Piberman

    No one could make up this unfolding Reality Show. Time for a CEO bonus.

  15. Dawn

    I am mid level mgmt. I’d I showed up unprepared to a meeting my bosses would rightfully show me the door.
    But let’s all remember, he’s a lawyer after all, not a dope and a smart guy.

  16. Ms. Ruby Mcpherson

    Jackson, stated he wouldn’t accept pay. Some of the teacher’s didn’t get their pay check Friday and was told they had to wait until this Friday.
    Does this mean he is leaving the Urban League job in Stamford. We forget most management positions for non-profit is to be done with retired executive and others who is compassionate for the community. And don’t look for big salaries. But also delegate .

  17. The Norwalker

    Hi Ruby

    What programs does Jackson have left that merits $128k? Because NEON chose to chase after the Headstart Program/Funding what they ended up with is no Headstart Grant and almost no State Programs/Funding. Most non-profit Admin. Salaries come from taking small percentages from all the programs.

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