NEON email to employees: ‘As we approach our last days here at the agency…’

Then-Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) CEO and President Joe Mann defends his record in March 2012, shortly after a damning federal audit put NEON in an uncomfortable spotlight.

NORWALK, Conn. – The staff at Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) has been asked to turn in their agency cell phones “As we approach our last days here at the agency.”

The email, sent by IT Administrator and Media Manager Marcus Robinson and obtained from a recipient by NancyOnNorwalk.com, contains instructions on how to remove personal photos and other material from the phones.

NEON Board of Directors Chairman Mike Berkoff declined to comment Thursday afternoon, but acknowledged the agency would have a statement soon. Attempts to reach acting CEO the Rev. Tommie Jackson by phone and email were not immediately successful.

Less than a month ago, the city announced it was taking over the electric bill at the Ben Franklin School, a state Department of Social Services spokesman expressed grave doubts about the agency’s ability to continue and state Sen. Bob Duff said internal talks were continuing but no decision had been made.

There have been rumors and behind-the-scenes discussions for weeks about a potential NEON bankruptcy filing, but NoN was told within the past two weeks that no decisions had been made on whether or when it would happen and, if it did, whether it would be a reorganization or Chapter 7, which would mean going out of business.


20 responses to “NEON email to employees: ‘As we approach our last days here at the agency…’”

  1. The Norwalker

    Thanks a lot……. Tommie Jackson

    Instead of wasting so much time and effort in trying to keep the Headstart Program you should have invested time in mending bridges with the State Funded Grants. State Funded Programs have always been the funding core of Community Action Agencies even though they are not the most generous in providing salaries for Senior Management.

    You should have spend some more time answering the calls from the State Agencies and tried to setup meetings that State Agencies had asked for.

  2. Norwalk Spectator

    How much longer are they going to prolong the agony?!?!?!?! Enough already. They took us for the ride and left us holding the bag. Fine. Let’s put this behind us and move on.

  3. LWitherspoon

    @Norwalk Spectator
    Maybe taxpayers were taken for a ride, as you say. A full investigation is needed so that taxpayers can learn the extent of the losses and how they happened. The recent news that the Norwalk Housing Authority can run Head Start for $800,000 less than NEON raises serious questions that must be answered.

  4. WOW!

    We should clarify that is was the City of Norwalk that determined NHA can run Head Start for $800,000 less than NEON. Remember, NHA did request $1 million blindly. Putting money aside for a moment, the same [lack of] instruction with the same “teachers” in place need to be remedied. NPS should take over government-subsidized Early Childhood Education. That’s our best shot at closing the achievement gap and ending this vicious cycle.

    Re: NEON: Beware of a chameleon.

  5. ScopeonNorwalk

    One thing you can’t take from NEON, they employed the highest number of Norwalk residents than any non profit “serving” Norwalk and probably a higher percentage than the City of Norwalk…

    NEON will reopen and probably in Stamford so they can put their people to work and they will be more than happy to have a non profit with the capacity of hiring hundreds of city residents that spend money in the city…

    It is what it is…someone from Stamford came, ran the agency into the ground, no one from Norwalk intervened, and now Stamford gets the jobs…

  6. Norwalk Spectator

    @ Scope –
    From what I understand, the Norwalk Housing Authority actually “took over” the program. The staff are now working for Head Start under NHA supervision. So, if they were Norwalk residents, and I couldn’t say one way or another if they are, they still should be employed.
    @Wow! –
    From what I read in various articles, when the NHA took over the program, they were not given any financial records – at all. So, I don’t think it was so much the City telling NHA what the budget was, but helping them figure out what the costs were for heat, lighting, and etc.

  7. WOW!

    What you are suggesting as far as NEON providing hundreds of jobs, in theory, is only sustainable if the Agency FAILS in its mission to lift those it serves out of poverty. Think about it. And think about the disservice NEON and a number of community leaders have provided to those they were supposed to be helping. The only job security and self-serving power that the community leaders have is ONLY maintained by holding the impoverished in a constant state of needed services. In other words, keep those in need OPPRESSED. The safety net that NEON was meant to provide has been, in reality, only a safety net of high paying jobs for its executives and nominal paying jobs for others.

  8. Bill

    Investigate Chiquita already

  9. McGruff

    Actually, there were some reports, from The Hour as well as The Advocate regarding the financials on CTE, back when Mann was negotiating the deal. Don’t have a link handy but recall CTE’s reported debt was near 7 digits. Recall Mann making a statement that he hoped to get CTE’s debt down to under $400,000. Don’t hold me to account for the numbers but than again nobody seems to be held accountable of anything in this painful drawn out saga. Supposedly, magically, with his deft, suave, managerial and legal expertise alone, Mann soldiered on, with a credit card. Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. Don’t recall reading if Mann ever succeeded in lowering the debt CTE owed, before or after the merge. But do recall significant paperwork was continually missing, which repeatedly delayed the final deal for spmething like two years. Also recall thinking, “why would Mann take on such debt?” He stated something to the effect it would “expand services to more clients,” etc, etc. Having dealt with both agencies and being somewhat familiar with staff and programs at both locations, recall thinking, that on face value, didn’t seem like a bright idea. Also recall thinking that someone was making out on the deal and it wasn’t the clients. If there was wrong doing, criminal wrong doing, not incompetence but criminal acts, that would be a good starting point for an inquiry. Would you knowingly buy a 250,000 home and take responsibility for the 500,000 owed by the previous owner? 500,000 over the 250,000 of the value of the home? Especially if you knew, it was only worth a third of that? If you answered yes, please explain to us why. To secure the mineral rights for the vain of gold in the ground, perhaps? Wouldn’t it be great if NON could track down Mann and ask him straight up, “where is that gold and what the heck was he thinking to begin with?” If NON cant track him down and get a response than perhaps States Attorney General Jepsen, himself, can, ask Mann. The motive didn’t appear, in any way, to benefit the clients or the communities they served. It did appear, however, that there were other motives afoot, than better serving the communities, that pushed the deal through. And oh what a deal it was. Wasn’t it? In all fairness, in comparison, CCA (food bank and furnture distributor) also, kinda, merged with P2P in Darien. CCA’s kinda merger with P2P has benefited the community with a larger, highly skilled and purse heavy, mostly (volunteer) management team from Darien. Again, in all fairness CCA also had some red ink that P2P absorbed but was easily absorbed by P2P, which is a well run and well funded operation. P2P can certainly play a larger role than they have been doing and they are beginning to step forward. But P2P,(has) the resources both in cold cash and, mostly, (volunteer), human capital. Mann’s resources were what, precisely? Sleight of hand? High pressure skilled salesmanship to close and collect? Fast talk? Magic? Well, he does have some skills, skills in avoiding and shining on reporters and investigators. Wonder if he is getting good mileage out of those Italian shoes and briefcases the taxpayers bought him? Must be a downer to have to pay for your own gas now…

  10. Community

    I thought Jackson was Godsend that will save the agency? The FEDS need to step in and really find the problem. Starts from the beginning until now. Meaning Bobby Burgess to now. Let’s look at the merge, they were already in the red. Well SNCC will be fill until they find out what they have done in the past to now. Housing too.

  11. John Hamlin

    Norwalk needs to decide whether its anti-poverty agencies are intended to do anything more than provide high salaries for management — and no law enforcement agency seems the least bit interested in figuring out where all the money went and who’s responsible. Will no one be held accountable? Certainly not any politicians.

  12. anonymous

    It sure seems like Connecticut and Norwalk law enforcement is giving NEON a free pass. Is it politics, nepotism and or favoritism?

    Something went very wrong here and Norwalk taxpayers deserve an answer.

  13. Suzanne

    Nancy, I am behind the times on this issue (I mean, really, it is exhausting!) But, questions: why has there not been a forensic audit of the books? If records are not turned over, why not a subpoena to obtain them? Why has Mr. Mann not been arrested if wrong doing can be proved by that audit? Since this is theoretically a public agency, this process would seem warranted. Questions must stop. Answers must be found. Wondering and waiting certainly is not working. AND, since this agency was receiving funds from up and down the government, it would be in the best interest of the public to get the questions answered already. Is there anything of this sort in progress?

  14. The Norwalker


    Most of NEON of Stamford (CTE) employees lived in Norwalk or farther away from Stamford anyway because of the high rents in Stamford. It was Mainly Senior Management and employees living in Income Sensitive Housing that lived in Stamford.

  15. The Norwalker

    What is out of the control of Community Action Agencies in Fairfield County is that the State of Connecticut rarely takes into consideration the higher cost of doing business in this area. Gasoline and everything else is more expensive in this County and that is not figured into the grants.

    The State knows about the cost of living here because the Dept. of Social Services allows people this area to earn more money the rest of the State and still qualify for food stamps and cash assistance.

  16. Oldtimer

    The merger (?) with CTE in Stamford was pushed by the State to keep CTE from collapsing. At the time, CTE was close to bankrupt and NEON was apparently in good shape. The lack of financial records from NEON is either part of a pattern of very sloppy accounting or a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence of large scale theft of public funds. It is past time to find out where the money went, over a period of many years.

    1. Mark Chapman


      According to a letter dated Nov 18., 2011, from DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby to CTE’s CEO Phil McKain and NEON CEO Joe Mann, CTE initiated the merger talks, and NEON was receptive. DSS worked to facilitate the merger, including issuing funds through NEON to help pay CTE’s bills and keep it afloat, according to the letter. DSS expressed concern that, despite its assistance and NEON’s apparent involvement in CTE’s affairs, no progress had been made toward finalizing the merger. The “push” was to get done what they started so everyone could move forward instead of simply changing the dressing on the wound.

  17. Dawn

    Shame on everyone who is in a position to do something. This is criminal and it needs to be punished.

  18. Community

    It seems yhat everyone that was there from them beginning is now trying to help other organizations out thinking they will get a deal. It seems the politicans motto is one hand washes the other and not help the community.

  19. The Norwalker

    @mark C. @ Oldtimer

    Because NEON chose to continue to operate the Headstart Program without 100% funding any money received from the State to compensate for CTE or for any other project would have been consumed by the Headstart operating expenses.

    If NEON had real Revenue and Expense reports all the answers we need would be right in front of us. It would only take minutes to see the problem.

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