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.