NEON infighting: Board members’ legitimacy questioned

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) board member Dale Ferguson fights on behalf of Chiquita Stephenson at the December board meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) board member is fighting to keep herself and two other supporters of former interim CEO and President Chiquita Stephenson on the board after being informed by Board Chairman Mike Berkoff that they have been removed, emails provided to NancyOnNorwalk show.

Dale Ferguson was informed in a Jan. 28 email from Berkoff that the Rev. Tommie Jackson, NEON’s transitional leader, had found her credentials as a board member to be invalid. In return, Ferguson fired back that actions taken by the board to dismiss Stephenson are invalid because new board members had not been sworn in. She had informed Attorney General George Jepsen, she said.

“It makes me wonder where there is reason in this world,” Jackson wrote in a follow-up email. “Dale should produce a letter from the Attorney General if there is one.”

Ferguson sent a scathing email to other board members in late November saying that Jackson had been illegally appointed to his position at a closed-door meeting Nov. 8. At the December board meeting she said Stephenson had not been dismissed as, according to Robert’s Rules and NEON by-laws, abstentions become “no” votes under the circumstances. There has been no board meeting since then.

Stephenson sent an email to NancyOnNorwalk Monday.

“I have not been dismissed from NEON by the NEON Board of Directors and, I am not on a non-paid leave of absence as stated by Mike Berkoff and Tommie Jackson!” she wrote.

Berkoff’s email to Ferguson asks why and how her status on the NEON board changed in October from “community low income” to “business person.” The email is copied to Jepsen, Mayor Harry Rilling and Stamford Mayor David Martin.

There have been questions about Ferguson’s residence in relation to NEON, and accusations that she does not live in the area served by NEON. NEON board members must live in NEON’s area of service, it is said.

Ferguson’s Jan. 28 email to Berkoff questions his right to dismiss her from the board.

“You are under the impression that you have sole authority and the ability to make decisions for the whole NEON board without protocol,” she wrote, going on to mention that board members Robin Peterson and Vanessa Parker had also been notified that they are no longer on the board.

They are three of the five board members who signed a Jan. 23 letter to Gov. Dannel Malloy accusing Malloy of planning to dismantle NEON from the start and of civil rights violations.

Ferguson’s email to Berkoff goes on, “You do not have the right! I’m disturbed that you now discover Mike Geake, Paola Ochoa and Nick Tarzia are not board members due to not being sworn in. We as board members communicated this to you on several occasions and that we were asking to take proper actions to have each and every board member sworn in but for your divine purposes of trying to (install) Tommie Jackson as CEO and president, you illegally utilized their votes.”

The only people who have jeopardized the organization are Jackson, Berkoff and board member Jack O’Dea, she wrote.

“(We are) Not dismissed! It requires a full board and board vote,” she wrote.

Ferguson received a  certified letter from Berkoff dated Feb. 6 notifying her that she was no longer on the board, the emails say.

On Feb. 7, Jackson sent an email to board members saying that, if Ferguson received a letter from Jepson, it was to acknowledge her email.

“It’s difficult to believe that Jepson gave Dale any direction or guidance that was definitive,” he wrote. “For me, Dale Ferguson is not a legitimate board member. Let’s rally and make sure that the votes are with us on Wednesday to keep Dale off of the board.”

On Feb. 10, Berkoff sent an email saying that no letter from Jepsen had been received.


A Jan. 28 internal email from Gail Meaney of NEON’s Human Relations department addresses an issue about Stephenson: “Chiquita’s paychecks are not resolved due to the fact that she has not returned all of NEON’s property,” she wrote.

Jackson said recently that Stephenson still had NEON computers in her possession.

The HR employee offered other information as well.

Meaney also comments that NEON was no longer retaining the payroll service ADP.

NEON employees said last week that they had not gotten their W2 tax form in a timely manner. The deadline to send W2’s is Jan. 31, but there are reports that W2’s have been received with a Feb. 8 postmark.

Meaney said in her email that NEON “went from 227 employees to 62 employees in the last 12 months.” Many NEON employees have unpaid medical bills adding up to thousands of dollars, she wrote. They are in collection, have lost apartments or are in danger of foreclosure, she wrote.

“I’m not going to get involved in this nonsense when we are struggling to keep the doors open,” she wrote.

The board meets Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Stamford, at  34 Woodland Ave. The agenda includes the swearing in of board members.


5 responses to “NEON infighting: Board members’ legitimacy questioned”

  1. WOW!

    WOW! Since when does the Executive Director (assuming, in this case, that it is Rev. Jackson) get to determine the makeup of his governing Board of Directors (BOD)? Nancy and Mark, can you post the names of NEON’s BOD? It should be a FOIA document. CT’s Department of Social Services (DSS) can only provide CSBG funding to Community Action Agencies here in CT, in accordance with its grant application to the Office of Community Services (a Federal office). According to CT State Statutes:

    Sec. 17b-886. (Formerly Sec. 17-636). Agency board. (a) Each community action agency shall administer its program through a community action board which shall consist of not more than fifty-one and not less than fifteen members and shall be so constituted that:

    (1) One-third of the members of the board are elected public officials currently holding office, or their designees, except that if the number of elected officials reasonably available and willing to serve is less than one-third of the membership of the board, membership on the board of appointive public officials may be counted in meeting such one-third requirement;

    (2) At least one-third of the members of the board are persons chosen in accordance with democratic selection procedures adequate to assure that they are representative of the poor in the area served; and

    (3) The remainder of the members of the board are officials or members of business, industry, labor, religious, welfare, education or other major groups and interests in the community.

    (b) Each member of the board selected to represent a specific geographic area within a community shall reside in the area he represents.

    If NEON has not met this standard, which I’m assuming it hasn’t for quite a long time, then why hasn’t the DSS de-certified NEON? Once the FOIA document confirms this assumption, this question needs to be asked to Governor Malloy, State Senator Bob Duff, and State Representative Bruce Morris!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!

  2. Casey Smith

    Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!

  3. hersheyteach101

    Yes this is very true I recevied my W-2 on Friday and I still have not received my vacation pay and they laid us of since November 13, 2013. This man has been telling everything but the truth. I’m tired of the games and the running around Neon gives me when ever you call and ask queations about these matters or they give you an attitude like you are bothering them. I’m am still waiting for them to send me my tax information for my son daycare payments for 2013……enough is enough and I am tired as a parent, staff, and a tax payer!

  4. hersheyteach101

    Ms. Chiquita posted this yesterday but, Nancy on Norwalk did not post it so now im going to post it.


    In our community staff, clients, children, families  and small businesses have suffered. No job, no income, no insurance, no childcare, no food, no clothing and no housing. Who is voicing the concerns for them by telling the truth so that, this never happens again.

    I have not been dismissed from NEON by the NEON Board of Directors and, I am not on a non paid leave of absence as stated by Mike Berkoff and Tommie Jackson!

    My free legal advise to Tommie Jackson and Mike Berkoff is to eliminate my name from their vocabulary and focus on NEON Business and the communities that they through; NEON are mandated to serve. They should not place their short coming on anyone but, THEMSELVES. 

    They plotted now they got it! DEAL with it!

    At no time, did Mike Berkoff ever instruct me not to pass out paychecks. Their focus should be on the role that each of them played in communicating with CITIBANK as it pertains to the checks. There are three sides to ever story. 

    I have been MALIGNED for the last time. ENOUGH! I’m focused on building communities and, I do not require approval or acceptance from anyone who is unwilling to READ the facts. There is no need for me to engage in nonsense when so many are suffering near and far.

    I said it once and, I will say it again “Lies have a way of catching up with a liar! Tommie and Mike need to facilitate a plan of action with supportive transition documentation, stop name dropping and, focus on moving the organization forward. If they can’t step aside. As for me, I have communities to build with community members.

    Anyone that knows me, knows that the proof is in the documentation and action taken. Again, my free legal advise to them, eliminate my name from their vocabulary.


    Rev. Chiquita Stephenson
    Acting NEON CEO/President

  5. still not paid

    So how can they swear in who if everything was done correctly? And how they swearing people in if they let go 3 people. They are not making any sense at all. This is a cover up it seems to me.

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