By Warren Peña
NORWALK, Conn. – This is to clear up what I see as defamation of character, better known as slander.
An article in The Hour on March 29th says, “NEON recently removed SNCC [South Norwalk Community Center] as a subcontractor of [the Human Hispanic Development (HHD)] grant after it didn’t provide information about how the money was being spent, according to [NEON Chief Operating Officer Chiquita] Stephenson.”
This is pure slander and a false allegation. SNCC does not administer the proceeds that come from the Department of Social Services. The contract is directly to NEON; therefore they handle the money as contractor. SNCC only received paychecks for its executive director and its former part-time youth coordinator.
Under the new program year, the grant provides funding for six employees to carry out the services outlined by the grant. SNCC never saw these employees or the funds to hire these employees.
In a recent meeting with our attorneys Chiquita Stevenson and NEON CEO Patricia Wilson-Pheanious told SNCC that they take funds from the HHD contract to pay other NEON employees carrying out non-HHD services. I believe that is a misappropriation of funds and a violation of the terms and conditions set forth by the contract. SNCC is on the first page and header of the financial summary report as subcontractor, and also clearly outlined under program salaries. The contract provides line items to fund an audit, office supplies, travel expenses, liability insurance, phones, network client service system and utilities to name a few. SNCC has never seen the funds to pay for these expenses.
I have written a letter to the governor’s office to request a 10-year audit of the HHD contract, as I believe this has been going on for years. At this point, Chiquita Stephenson and Patricia Wilson-Pheanious have exploited NEON and mishandled the NEON/ SNCC relationship beyond repair. I believe they continue to carry out bad habits from the past that will not allow NEON to re-brand. I call on them to step down immediately or for the new NEON board to show strong leadership in requesting their departure. The people who are suffering are those in dire need, but that is the last thing on the minds of these leaders. This all started from a simple request of financial/accounting documents to get a better understanding of SNCC’s finances. What are these folks really hiding when they are supposed to be completely transparent?
Warren A. Peña
Minority leader, Norwalk Common Council
President and chairman of the board, South Norwalk Community Center, Inc.
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