NEON payroll checks delayed, DSS sending money to cover shortage

(Updated at 1:45 p.m. Oct. 7 to clarify attribution and details of NEON contact with the governor’s office.)

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) employees received some bad news shortly after 1:30 p.m. Friday – their paychecks would be delayed until Tuesday.

To make matters worse, Stephenson told NEON employees in a series of meetings Friday afternoon and evening that the agency did not have enough money to cover its payroll and was awaiting a check from the state, and that layoffs were likely.

The employees got the news about their pay in an email from acting CEO and President Chiquita Stephenson with no explanation of why the checks would not be available on time. NancyOnNorwalk obtained a copy of the email, which read:

“Please be advised that we have just been informed that our paychecks due to be received today October 4, 2013 will not be in house until Tuesday, October 8, 2013.

“We understand the inconvenience that this delay will cause to each of you financially and we apologize for the inconvenience as this was not in our control.

“With this shared, there will be 3 meetings held today, one at 4:00 pm 98 South Main Street, 2nd floor conference room, 5:00 pm and another one at 6:30 pm at Ely in the gym to share our direction and to answer any questions that individuals may have.

“This is a delicate time in our history, government and agency mission as the government has shut down. We are applauding each of you who are taking a deep breathe, proceeding with a calm spirit and continuing with an open heart to continue to press forward with serving the individuals, children and families that we serve together.

“Together we will continue to make a difference.”


Chiquita Stephenson

Acting CEO/President

According to multiple sources, including several who work for NEON, there now have been problems for two straight paydays. NEON pays its employees every two weeks.

A NancyOnNorwalk commenter with the screen name NEON Staff posted this on another story earlier today:

“Nancy, How about the fact that NO NEON EMPLOYEES received their pay checks after two weeks of work NEON was not able to make payroll, so staff has to wait until Tuesday to get their paychecks. Neon knew since Monday about the situation and waited until 5 pm Thursday to send out an e-mail about not receiving a paycheck until 3 pm Friday so they wait until 2 pm Friday to let staff know we are not getting paid until Tuesday. I feel sorry for the families with no food or gas and NEON’s management staff response to this was oh you’ll be fine.I bet they got their checks.”

Angry & Disgusted
NEON Staff

Board of Directors member Jack O’Dea responded to an inquiry sent to new Board Chairman Michael Berkoff on Friday afternoon, as Berkoff was unavailable. O’Dea said it was his understanding that a computer problem led to employees getting paper checks and no direct deposit two weeks ago.

However, community activist Ernie Dumas said Thursday that, two weeks ago, NEON employees were told on payday that, because of a change in payroll services, there would not be direct deposit that day and they would get handwritten paper checks between noon and 1:30 p.m, “Nobody got a check until after 4 p.m. that Friday,” he said.

Stephenson confirmed Friday night that NEON had changed payroll processors and that is what led to the paper checks two weeks ago.

“They should have let people know two weeks in advance that they were changing companies,” Dumas said Thursday.

O’Dea said the state Department of Social Services is sending NEON $283,000-plus to cover the payroll, which will be distributed Tuesday. The amount is to be repaid to DSS, he said.

O’Dea said Friday night that O’Dea and Berkoff got a phone call “from the governor’s people and the governor” earlier in the day to discuss getting NEON emergency funding to make payroll.

“These things are continuously happening,” Dumas said. “They need to change all those folks.”



15 responses to “NEON payroll checks delayed, DSS sending money to cover shortage”

  1. WHAT?

    O’Dea says that two weeks ago there were paper checks because of a computer glitch? NEON’s direct deposit is administered by ADP, not any system that is run by NEON. What was this computer glitch exactly at ADP? I didn’t hear about a computer glitch at ADP in the news. Or, is that NEON-speak for ADP wouldn’t process our payroll because we have no money for it and we wont admit it?

  2. getyourlife.com

    Sounds like a cash flow problem to me and not a system glitch. oh, I forgot Neon Finance and Accounting department do not know what cash flow is, maybe they should take Business 101 at NCC and learn what that means. What does the government shut down have to do with having no money to pay your employees, especially if you are not receiving any government funds? Please explain what the computer glitch is and what payroll system you switched to that caused such a problem that you had to borrow $283,000 from DSS on Tuesday, must be some glitch, sounds more like no cash. NEON management is a walking contradiction. If NEON management knew Monday that there were issues the government didn’t shutdown until Tuesday so how are the 2 related? The lack of experience and education the CEO and many others have has led NEON down this dark tunnel, and until the current management is released of their duties, this will continue to occur. Someone from the State needs to step in and speak to each employee and figure out what is really going on. Did O’Dea verify that it was a computer problem 2 weeks ago? The board needs to verify anything that the acting CEO/President says. Prior articles have proven that she can’t be trusted, go directly to the employees and the truth will come out. The fear of being fired and the intimidation factor from the CEO and others is what has caused the employees to clam up, but why should they be fired if they are telling the truth. What is the next excuse the CEO will use when the next payroll rolls around or will there not be another one? The company will not survive unless something is done now.

  3. amazed

    The bottom line is Neon could not fund payroll for one full month. How long can this continue?

  4. Oldtimer

    Could that be why so many board members quit in the last few days ? Nobody wants to be part of a failing busness. Unable to meet payroll two paydays in a row is a very bad sign.

  5. Herb Eaversmels

    We use ADP in our business. Pay checks have been issued on time for years. No glitches ever. Sounds like someone is making up stories. No wonder people are leaving NEON.

  6. Herb Eaversmels

    Time to disband NEON.

  7. EveT

    The above question bears repeating: What does the government shut down have to do with having no money to pay your employees, especially if you are not receiving any government funds?

  8. M Allen

    “the agency did not have enough money to cover its payroll and was awaiting a check from the state, and that layoffs were likely.”
    Will those layoffs be starting at the top? Imagine how many Chiquitas you could cut in order to employ the people further down the ladder. Besides, the whole senior management team needs to go anyway. Now is the time.

  9. ScopeonNorwalk

    “Cut from the top, cut from the top”!…Practicing my rally chant.

  10. Jlightfield

    A look over at Bridgeport explains a possible scenario. Head Start is a federally funded program and employees who would be performing those tasks are essentially furloughed, if and this would be a big if in Norwalk, they were solely funded by the head start program.

    This article is unclear as to which emoyees are affected and what the payment period from HUD is. Meanwhile Mayor Bill Finch recognized the issue in Bridgeport in addition to the impact of a a furloughed federally funded day care program, and rallied outside agencies to help provide those services to the constituents affected. Kinda hard to go to a job if your kid isn’t in a head start program etc.


    NEON’s “management” seems to have a problem identifying what services it provides, what funding sources contribute to those services and accounting for the cost and delivery for those services. The City of Norwalk has provided both Ely and Ben Franklin Schools to NEON in order for them to provide services acting as the City’s anti- poverty agency. Note that there is no city appointed board seat at NEON. Despite it being an election year, the City should immediately convene a special session, take back it’s property and award a management contract to another agency to run those essential services.

  11. Michael Ward

    I try to sit on the sidelines and wait for those affected to raise their concerns. On this, I must jump in. NEON has for decades done yeoman work in supporting the community at large. It has changed. NEON stands for Norwalk Economic Opportunity NOW! It has merged to assist the residents Norwalk AND Stamford. These are two different communities with different (while similar) issues. There are board members that are not from the Norwalk community and while well intentioned, don’t understand the plights and politics of Norwalk. In short, NEON has lost its way.

    The South Norwalk Community Center (SNCC) was a friend of NEON for years. I don’t know what happened other than to liken it to a divorce, we were friends, we were lovers now we can’t be in the same room. But unlike a marriage between two people, this is a marriage between to organizations with a common goal that has two boards of more than two people each. These two boards should have been providing joint guidance and oversight to both organizations to protect their mutual interests of supporting the community. Represent the community and work for them instead of playing like you are in the US Congress

    Instead, we have board members who are also District and At-Large elected officials trying to run their personal agendas instead of the agenda for the “better good of those they serve” (both elected and not for profit).

    So, here we sit with dedicated employees scrambling to pay their bills on Friday when someone in authority knew days ago that they could not meet payroll. Everyone including my brain dead teenager anticipated that the Federal Government would screech to a halt on Tuesday morning, if that is what the real problem is, yet the “persons in the know” at NEON gave no heads up to the staff that there might be yet another problem with payroll (ADP Transition last payday). Not only does this violate labor laws ( a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work) but the mission of this organization to bring people out of poverty instead of driving them further into it.

    NEON’s board has a moral responsibility to the clients of NEON and a transparent, moral, and ethical fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Norwalk and the State of Connecticut, the employees of NEON, and their clients that rely on their services

    NEON staff is reluctant to speak their plight to the media because of “Non Disclosure Agreements” that NEON made everyone sign. Well, in my opinion, NEON voided the NDA by not paying them on time. NEON violated their 1st amendment right.

    NEON has done an awful lot for the city of Norwalk over the years, but maybe it is time to divest it and move on. Likewise, maybe it is time to revisit the appointments to the SNCC board that cannot play nice in the sandbox. This strife is not fair to the people who depend on these two organizations and those living forkful to forkful.

    Michael Ward

  12. KarenJ

    This is on respond of Mr. Ward. The ones affected by this lie are not able to raise their concerns ,unfortunately they we’re threaten of loosing their jobs if they approach the media.
    But let me refresh the memories of Chiquita Stephenson , Jack O’Dea and the rest of the management team. Please go back to The Norwalk Hour on. July 10,2013 and read what was on the paper that day. FEDS OK FUNDING EXTENSION FOR NEON’S HEAD START THROUGH DECEMBER 31. Then on July 25,2013 .STATES EXTENDS NEON PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN, BOOST FUNDING BY $ 1.4 M. THROUGH JUNE 30, 2014.
    Now can some one explained to me how is the Head Start program is been affected by the GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN.

  13. Narus Effectus Operarius Necessarius

    In all fairness, the federal money (has)apparently run out, due to the federal”shut down” and the state did pony up, it is not clear if this recent payment was a regular disbursement allocated to NEON, (Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now), or an advance. Hard for anyone to get clear answers with such turnover and internal turmoil. Far as non disclousure’s go there are limitations to restrictions but careful review of the n.d. is warranted. As for calling an emergency session and in essence forclose immediatley on NEON, not sure how that would work in action. Who would be the replacing management and what would the contract look like and what about current contracts? Legal fee’s? Maybe something like an FDR, temporarily shut it down for restucturing. How does bannkruptcy law play or not play in this scenario the organization is facing? Is there a philanthropist nearby, somwhere that can step in? Lots of good folks with resources and expertise that could step up here and make a difference. Just saying…

  14. John Doe

    O’Dea was lied too unfortunately about the ADP changeover causing issues. Management is and has been lying to the board to cover insuffiencies caused by their own mismanagement. They forgot to mention that ADP no longer would cover direct deposits because there were not enough funds in the bank to cover the amount? Talk about account issues! To say that you are changing over to another bank is weird to say the least. Try speaking the truth, it may take you farther in life considering that the majority of Chiquita Stephenson’s past business ventures have all been failures. Who in their right minds would give her another business to run?

    I also feel someone should look into the free space that is being used as business ventures for “friends” of Chiquita Stephenson in Cte Inc. Stamford. Are the Stamford politicians aware of this? If so, why do they not pay rent?

    -John Doe

  15. dawn

    When they fired Mann and the last Finance guy, there were meetings and seaparation agreements. Apparently, they could not just say “You’re Fired!!!”
    Is that the issue now. I wonder how much they paid Mann off to go away.
    I wonder if and when The new one goes away, how muc of a pot will she get.
    I have had direct deposit from several jobs for over 20 years and never did i ever get my money late. If anything direct deposit goes in a day early in a lot of cases.
    I know a lot of people at NEON. Staff and Customer. They are being screwed.
    There is too much “MANAGEMENT”. There are usually managers just standing around chit chatting. The poeple in the classrooms are working hard.
    I know that i could not afford to missa paycheck. I hope that the staff are compensated for there losses.
    They should all jump ship now.

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