NEON dismisses Stephenson

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In this file photo, former Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) interim CEO and president Chiquita Stephenson shows off work agency staff had done to appeal the results of an Office of the Inspector General audit.

NORWALK, Conn. – The former leader of an embattled South Norwalk anti-poverty agency, who was described as being on unpaid leave after paychecks bounced, was dismissed Monday night by the agency’s board of directors in a split vote.

Four Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) board members voted in favor of dismissing former interim NEON CEO and President Chiquita Stephenson, while four abstained. Only eight were present, one by phone.

NEON Board Chairman Mike Berkoff said Stephenson had disobeyed a direct order when she issued the paychecks that bounced. Board member Dale Ferguson, who abstained, said in an email obtained by NancyOnNorwalk after the meeting that Stephenson was being slandered. Ferguson said Stephenson has been working from home while allegedly on unpaid leave.

An attempt to contact Stephenson failed.

“There are several reasons that support and require the unpaid leave and termination of Mrs. Stephenson,” Berkoff said as the board meeting began. “First, Chiquita was given direct orders not to issue any checks when funds were not in the account. Second, Chiquita issued checks in bad faith. Three, Chiquita was told that issuing bad checks was wrong and criminal. Four, the actions of Chiquita brought damage and harm to NEON that cannot be repaired or recovered.”

The only discussion concerned the mechanics of the vote. Board members Jack O’Dea, Michael Geake, Angela Edwards (by telephone) and Berkoff voted to terminate Stephenson.

Board members Cynthia Bowser, Paola Ochoa, Vanessa Parker and Ferguson abstained. Ferguson protested that the resolution had failed because it only got four votes, but Geake and Berkoff said it had passed, as a majority of those present had voted for it.

Geake and Ochoa have not been sworn in yet.

Ferguson sent an email to all board members Monday afternoon. It was leaked to NancyOnNorwalk Monday night.

“All of the funding that is coming in is from the work that Chiquita and her team were already working on,” the email said. “I’m board secretary I see the minutes and attachments. Why are we allowing our current Acting CEO/President to take the fall for what we know to be a set up and we have many facts. Our problem as a board is that we did not communicate the facts that we had publicly yet we are allowing DSS and others to make false statements.”

Berkoff did not return an email and a phone call requesting a response to the allegations made in the email.


14 responses to “NEON dismisses Stephenson”

  1. ‘Ferguson said Stephenson has been working from home while allegedly on unpaid leave.”
    OMG REALLY?!?!? Chicky babe STILL HAS ACCESS to NEON’s systems??
    At a point where I was thinking – ‘okay, seems like somehow there is action to correct what is going on and it is positive – it comes to light that the one person who had her hand in the pot is now able to destroy whatever information needed against her because she is still accessing NEON’s system.
    IF they ever get their act together, the next people to go are the four above for keeping allegiance to the old regime because they WILL poison anything positive that will happen in the future (they are ALREADY doing it); if not poison, they will be at the root of any misappropriations. NEON MUST CLEAN HOUSE and this is a prime example of why.
    Now to whoever thought it would be a good idea to have Chicky still work on NEON’s plight should be shown the door.
    A poster once commented that this would be laughable if it weren’t for the millions of dollars they swindled the taxpayers.

  2. Dawn

    I could not say it better. What evidence did this woman destroy.

  3. Don’t Panic

    50% is not a majority. While it may constitute a passing resolution, depending on what the by-laws say, it should not be portrayed as a majority vote. Someone had to have misspoken because Mr. Geake knows better.
    If I were one of the agencies requiring resolutions as the other artcle said, then these would not meet the requirement unless the bylaws spelled out a way that 50% is a passing resolution.

  4. Bamboozled

    Chiquita and Mann are gone! That’s a start….now the rest of the musketeers should follow: Watson-Yates, Langhorn, Ortiz, Lovegren, Cooper, and Ball! That is the secret society

  5. M Allen

    Panic – if they had a quorum and a majority of those in attendance in person or by phone voted, then you have a valid vote. 15 board members, 8 is a quorum. 4 voted to dismiss, some others abstained, for whatever reason. They could have voted against just to push the decision off, but they didn’t. If they were truly against the outcome, they would have done just that. Instead they abstained. But abstentions are a valid vote, neither for or against. But in the end, if you have a quorum and all vote, then its a valid vote.

  6. Kelly

    “Why are we allowing our current Acting CEO/President to take the fall? Well perhaps we can just look at it as she is taking one for the team – (mission). Do wonder about the vote though. If it’s accurate that two members were yet to be sworn in? hmmm. Also wonder when criminal complaints will be forthcoming? As they have been clearly delineated by the chairman in a public hearing. As for any possible destruction of evidence, destruction of any evidence would show criminal intent, not a wise move.

  7. Don’t Panic

    @M Allen
    50% of those present is not a majority 4 out of 8 is 50%. A majority is over 50%. I’m not questioning the validity or the quorum. I’m questioning the assertion that 50% is a majority. It may be that the bylaws are written in such a way that this qualifies as a passing vote (ie votes for exceed votes against with abstains having no effect, but that is not a majority standard).

  8. M Allen

    Panic – According to Robert’s Rules: “In the usual situation, where either a majority vote or a two-thirds vote is required, abstentions have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the vote since what is required is either a majority or two thirds of the votes cast. On the other hand, if the vote required is a majority or two thirds of the members present, or a majority or two thirds of the entire membership, an abstention will have the same effect as a “no” vote. Even in such a case, however, an abstention is not a vote and is not counted as a vote.”

    Hope that clears it up. They had a quorum. Some abstained, the majority of voters passed the resolution. Unless the bylaws state that a majority of the board members must actually cast a vote in order for the outcome to be valid, which I’ll bet it doesn’t, then a majority of votes approved the resolution. Can’t help those who abstained. They could have done differently if they felt she shouldn’t have been removed.

  9. Don’t Panic

    Most organizations of NEONs size control voting standards in their by laws, not Roberts or Masons. Does not change the fact that 4 out of 8 is 50 % not a majority.

  10. M Allen

    How about we just agree NEON aint got no standards so this vote is as good as any other they’ve taken 🙂

  11. Oldtimer

    If they let her go I hope somebody was smart enough to get her to return all the NEON property she has. If she was working from home and still had access to NEON’s books, that needs to be stopped and passwords changed. Even if she is completely above any suspicion, she should not have access to the books.

  12. @ oldtimer.,
    That ship has sailed a long time ago. She never lost access if she was “working from home” and in the privacy of her own home, she was free to download, manipulate and perhaps destroy any file/document she had access to before (no, I don’t work there but you can bet she never lost her access rights to confidential and sensitive information).
    Those bozos (Jackson, Duff, Morris, Hines and the entire board) did not have the forethought to revoke her privileges??? Collectively, they have yet to show the public that they are on top of the situation and have a game plan. These sound bites Duff is giving out is just that – nothing of substance (Duff’s true M.O. really is trying to soften the impact that Rilling agreed to finance NEON again. That is is just speculation but don’t be surprised).
    For anyone in that bunch, at this point in time, to fail at due diligence is just too much for us to bear.
    The corruption that has eaten its way to the very core of NEON since Joe Mann is an absolute abomination to the city of Norwalk and it is time to just close up shop.
    It’s done, it’s over.

  13. Don’t Panic

    @M Allen,
    Fair enough!

  14. BadGirl

    I wonder if they know that Chiquita was using a 3rd party vendor to do all the computers at NEON. Not only that, but that 3rd party vendor has been close friends of hers for well over a decade. So does anyone think that she’s NOT going to have access? Really?

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