Quantcast

NEON employees: Checks are worthless – there’s no money

Norwalk election 2013 011
South Norwalk community activist Ernie Dumas, left, joins the cash-strapped employees of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Tuesday at 98 South Main St. as they wait for explanations about their “worthless” paychecks.

(Updated 4 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, complete story)

NORWALK, Conn. — More than a dozen Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) employees congregated at the 98 S. Main St. headquarters Tuesday afternoon, looking to talk to their embattled CEO because paychecks that had been issued Monday night were labeled as “fraudulent,” they said.

According to employees — most of whom would not give their names for fear of losing their jobs — the checks are drawn on Citibank, but Citibank employees refused to cash them Tuesday morning. One employee said she was told there were insufficient funds; another said a bank employee said the check was not valid but they could not say why because the person trying to cash the check was not the owner of the account. Shortly before 4 p.m., employees who had gone inside to meet with NEON’s interim President and CEO Chiquita Stephenson emerged in tears, saying they were told there was no money available and no estimated date they would be paid. The employees, who called the situation “bull—” and “crazy,” were heading to a meeting at Norwalk Inn with Community Development Institute (CDI), the company the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has brought in to take over the Head Start program on a temporary basis. That takeover has met with resistance from NEON and has not taken effect.

Stephenson refused to speak with NancyOnNorwalk.

The employees went to NEON just before noon Tuesday looking to talk to Stephenson. They had been led to believe Stephenson would be there, but she wasn’t.

A member of the group, who said she is a union shop steward, called Norwalk Police. “I had to make sure no one was going to be in trouble for cashing a check,” she said.

The employees said they have a co-worker who is on vacation, who had gotten her paycheck at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and then headed to California.

“Right now, she was stuck in Ohio with no money because when she deposited the check and she tried to use the ATM, there’s no money in there,” said Audelina Moya of Bridgeport, a kitchen manager for NEON. “It’s bounced. She is stuck in Ohio with no money. It’s not fair.”

The shop steward said a NEON employee, child in tow, tried to cash her paycheck at a check-cashing business in Waterbury. The clerk called police and told them the check was fraudulent. Police said they would have arrested the NEON employee but did not because she had a child with her, the employees said.

“I have someone stuck in Ohio now, stuck, trying to get to California and she is stuck because she can’t take the second flight out,” the shop steward said. “I have a mother and a child stuck in Waterbury because they could not cash their check and we are supposed to be OK with this?”

Police came out of NEON a short while later to inform her of what they had learned by talking to NEON management.

“From what they said they’re trying to take care of it,” he said. “They’ve been trying since early this morning. Give them the time that they need. They’re dealing with it. … They say they’re having an issue with the bank. It’s not fraudulent.”

Only about 70 to 75 paychecks were issued by NEON, said the shop steward, who did not have her own useless piece of paper yet. Most of the employees had been there Monday night, looking to get paid. Checks were not released to them until 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, they said. NEON stopped printing checks at about 9:30 a.m. after reports came back that they were not being honored., employees said.

The officers said that they were told a “glitch” had caused the problem.

“That’s what it is? The glitch again?” one employee said.

This is the third time in a row that NEON has had problems with its payroll. The agency is under siege from federal regulators and grant-makers over its management and financial practices. NEON’s Head Start contract has been suspended, Department of Corrections halfway house contracts have been canceled and the agency has been labeled an “agency at risk,” when the Department of Social Services begins steps to move NEON’s other programs to more stable agencies.

Employees said after meeting with Stephenson that union dues had been deducted from their paychecks but that the union had not gotten the money for two months. They said their health insurance premiums had been deducted from their paychecks, but they had no health insurance.

They said they had been told they would be fired for speaking to the press. Stephenson was grandstanding, one employee said. Employees were told that if they opened a Citibank account they would be able to cash their checks within three or four days, one said.

One employee produced her paycheck to show that it had no pay stub with it. There was no accounting of the hours worked or any deductions. It was just a check, which she said was worthless.

One tearful employee said her phone might get shut off again. Others said people did not have food to feed their children.

The shop steward said she is trying to help her co-workers.

“I am reaching out to anyone that can help and assist families to be fed,” she said. “I myself, thanks to my mom, I am able to stand my ground but others don’t have that support.”

She said she doesn’t believe the story about the glitch.

What is the problem?

“Stolen funds, I can’t sugar coat it,” she said. “You can’t say misappropriated because when we speak to the funding source the funding sources say money has been given. So if money has been given and it’s not been put into our property what do you call it but stealing?”

Moya, the kitchen manager, said she is owed 190 hours of vacation time.

“Every time NEON have a problem or we have to cover something, I have to stop my vacation, I can’t take it because we have a problem in the school and now I don’t have my paycheck,” she said. “I don’t have no vacation, I don’t know where I’m going to be. And I have family. I have a house to pay, I have bills. It’s ridiculous. I never be absent at my job, I always come to work every day. I’m here every day to work for 14 years.”

(Original story)

NORWALK, Conn. — More than a dozen Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) employees congregated at the 98 S. Main St. headquarters this afternoon after trying to cash their paychecks and having the bank refuse them.

According to employees — none of who would give their names for fear of losing their jobs — the checks are drawn on Citibank, but Citibank employees refused to cash them Tuesday morning. One employee said she was told there were insufficient funds; another said a bank employee said the check was not valid but they could not say why because the person trying to cash the check was not the owner of the account.

Shortly before 4 p.m., employees who had gone inside to meet with NEON’s interim President and CEO Chiquita Stephenson emerged in tears, saying they were told there was no money available and no estimated date they would be paid. The employees, who called the situation “bull—” and “crazy,” were heading to a meeting at Norwalk Inn with Community Development Institute (CDI), the company the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has brought in to take over the Head Start program on a temporary basis. That takeover has met with resistance from NEON and has not taken effect.

Stephenson refused to speak with NancyOnNorwalk.

About 15 employees, who were expecting to be paid Monday, had been at NEON at about 2:30 p.m. Some said checks were not released to them until 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, when 70 to 75 checks were distributed. Several employees were at the NEON office to pick up their checks at that time. Then, when they tried to cash them, they could not. NEON stopped passing out checks at about 9:30 a.m. after reports came back that they were not being honored.

Employees called police to the NEON office to complain of fraud. Officers went inside, an employee said, and came out and told them that they were told a “glitch” had caused the problem.

The complaint stemmed from an incident earlier Tuesday when a NEON employee, child in tow, tried to cash her paycheck at a check-cashing business in Waterbury, one employee told NancyOnNorwalk. The clerk called police and told them the check was fraudulent. Police said they would have arrested the NEON employee but did not because she had a child with her, the employees said.

This is the third time in a row that NEON has had problems with its payroll. The agency is under siege from federal regulators and grant-makers over its management and financial practices. NEON’s Head Start contract has been suspended, Department of Corrections halfway house contracts have been cancelled and the agency has been labeled an “agency at risk,” when the Department of Social Services begins steps to move NEON’s other programs to more stable agencies.

Employees said after meeting with Stephenson that union dues had been deducted from their paychecks but that the union had not gotten the money for two months. They said their health insurance premiums had been deducted from their paychecks, but they had no health insurance.

They said they had been told they would be fired for speaking to the press. Stephenson was grandstanding, one employee said. Employees were told that if they opened a Citibank account they would be able to cash their checks within three or four days, one said.

One employee produced her paycheck to show that it had no paystub with it. There was no accounting of the hours worked or any deductions. It was just a check, which she said was worthless.

One tearful employee said her phone might get shut off again. Others said people did not have food to feed their children.

 

Comments

26 responses to “NEON employees: Checks are worthless – there’s no money”

  1. M Allen

    glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag.
    .
    Don’t worry, it’s just a snag. It’s minor. Not enough for Chiqi to hang out and you know, spend time with the employees.

  2. Where is Duff?
    Where is Himes?
    *
    Too busy trying to bamboozle senior citizens and their constituents that social healthcare is a good thing and really, they won’t be paying more, getting less and won’t have the same providers or hospitals they have been using…
    *

  3. Better Norwalk

    I’ll bet Stephenson’s checks are good, along with her family members checks! PAY UP WOMAN!

  4. WHAT?

    OK, so where is the accountability for outright lying about the disposition of public funds and allowing people to work when they cannot be paid? This morning it was stated that there was just a problem with a new account and no worries. Now, if it is true, as reported above, that management told employees there is no money, then where is the accountability for outright lying to employees and the public????

  5. EastNorwalkChick

    I would advise an employee to call the Dept. of Labor and then the Dept. of Revenue Services. Because if they have been deducting Union Dues and Health Insurance and not paying the bill, more than likely they have been deducting taxes and not making their Federal or State payroll tax deposits.
    .
    This is a clear case of fraud, Ms. Stephenson and the Board need to give the employees some answers to what is going on that is better than, “a glitch”.

  6. You may want to check your facts

    Irishgirl, what does what you posted have to do with this article????

  7. Ummm…well – THEY are the democratic reps with ties to Hartford and government agencies that can actually have an impact on NEON and the prosecution of Chicky baby. This maywell be out of Moccia’s reach.
    *
    Duff is always out there stomping for some fledgling group that puts another notch in his belt and another photo op on his mantle (outside of his ice-cream social)…- well it seems like the neat and tidy groups that aren’t mired in so much sleaze and corruption.
    *
    kinda makes you think he wants to put enough distance between NEON and his time there/his reputation.
    *
    Now that these people REALLY REALLY need whatever bravado he can muster – its ghostly quiet. Yeah, thanks Duff – I’m sure YOU’LL get elected next time (and Himes, well – he is of the same litter)

  8. cc-rider

    This is a travesty. What more could possibly go wrong with this organization?

    I am so sick of reading the bashing of both political parties. It is a joke to think that either side represent any or all of the real answers. Everyone parrots a handful of points that are worn out over and over again like a broken record.

  9. life-long Norwalker

    Mayor Harry Rilling we need you now.

  10. Mayor Rilling will have one of his first EPIC fails if he gives one red cent of taxpayers money to this group to bail them out. A move like that is as inept and incompetent as it comes. The former chief is now the rookie again…
    *
    If he is truly the democratic messiah NoN readers tout him to be then he should be able to handle this with the greatest of ease. I look forward to the unbiased reporting (cough-cough) NoN will provide as they follow and scrutinize this story…
    *
    Who knows, now that there is one of NoN own in office, insides scoops galore! The openness, the honesty! Can’t wait!!!

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Irsih Girl

      FYI, I hope he does not give them “one red cent” as long as the current bunch are running the show. We will be watching.

  11. cc-rider

    I am sure everyone can’t wait for more of your inane commentary as well Irishgirl

  12. Thanks Mark, that will be good.
    *
    @CC–Rider
    Inane commentary…mine?! Wow, talk about the kettle calling the pot black but my comments are on topic…unlike yours.

  13. Norwalk Lifer

    If deductions for insurance and taxes were taken but not paid, then there’s definitely a reason for Federal Prosecution.

    I would suggest that RICO violations be reviewed; this person, may be incompetent, but more than likely now, she is a criminal.

    FBI time folks.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  14. Norwalk Lifer

    @Irish girl:
    ///

    If he is truly the democratic messiah NoN readers tout him to be then he should be able to handle this with the greatest of ease. I look forward to the unbiased reporting (cough-cough) NoN will provide as they follow and scrutinize this story…

    ///

    Then stop reading

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  15. The Norwalker

    Where was the NEON Board yesterday? They should be working with Rilling to get enough funds to pay staff for work that has been done. They need to fire Senior Management at NEON immediately and salvage what programs at NEON that have a chance of making it.

    They also should assist in any criminal charges that are brought against present and prior NEON Senior Management. They also should be in touch with what ever firm does NEON’s annual audits.

  16. @NLifer,
    Why? Because then you won’t be reminded of anything undemocratic, hollow promises or maybe even the knee deep pile we may be in when the mayor gets down to business?
    Well, isn’t that special…you only want to read about gumdrops and jellybeans and have no bad things said about Harry, The Great Promiser.
    I doubt it!

  17. life-long Norwalker

    @ Irishgirl. Don’t worry about where Duff is. Just know where Moccia won’t be. In the Mayor’s office. Rilling all day.

  18. Norwalk Lifer

    @Irish girl, no, because your modus operandi is continuously predictable, if NON is biased, then why do you read?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  19. @ Lifer,
    Why do you care?
    PS
    “Because your modus operandi is continuously predictable…”
    …Right back atchya…

  20. John Levin

    Listen, it should be obvious to everyone that NEON likely soon will be forced to file for bankruptcy. It appears that NEON has lost its contracts and its funding. It has accumulated unpaid vendor bills, and can not meet payroll. As an outside observer, of course I have no idea what the #’s are, but it’s likely there is no cash left, and no funding source likely to come to the rescue that will make whole existing creditors. Therefore, it seems pointless to talk about what NEON “should do”, or it’s board should be doing, or anything else. More reasonable to ask is what are the administrative procedures for handling a case like this? Have they retained bankruptcy counsel? Are there any assets that can be used to fund the administrative expenses? Perhaps shared ownership of the South Main Street building? Does Pat Phineas-Wilson return as court appointed conservator? Will NEON be reorganized, or is a liquidation necessary? It looks to me like it’s over. What am I missing?

  21. M Allen

    According to today’s story in The Hour related to Ms. Stephenson taking an unpaid leave of absence, “Berkoff said the board has “identified a turnaround specialist” to run NEON in Stephenson’s absence.”
    .
    “Turnaround specialists” have multiple options depending on the organization and the situation. As the name implies, they can be hired to turn a failing organization around and bring it back into line. That could include taking the organization through bankruptcy with the goal of coming back out healthier. However, they are oftentimes tasked with managing the organization through bankruptcy that results in its liquidation and an end to operations altogether. Given the fact that NEON is a non-profit, I would suggest the latter wouldn’t be the case. But I suppose it really depends on how bad the situation really is. It may be that there isn’t anything left to salvage.

  22. RU4REAL

    Rilling starts in January, ask Moccia until then.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @RU4REAL

      Locally, elected officials take office in November. Rilling will take office Nov. 22. Final Common Council meeting for the current council is Nov. 12.

  23. @East Norwalk Chick,
    NOW do you get the connection with Duff and these people’s needs (see articles following this)

    @NLifer,
    What, don’t worry about a democratic legislator whom the public of SoNo elected NOT worry about the help he has to provide???? Wow, really, talk about putting your head in the sand.

  24. Neoscam

    Now that the election is over, can the criminal investigation please proceed? Do these queens pay for their own lexus’s too, or are those company cars?

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments