NEON will only go bankrupt if someone else steps in, board chairman says

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board Chairman Michael Berkoff conducts Thursday night’s board meeting.

Correction, 10:15 p.m., Dec. 22 – Community Action Program, not partnership.

NORWALK, Conn. – A crumbling South Norwalk anti-poverty agency will continue to see that the needs of its clients are met even if it goes bankrupt, its board chairman said Friday.

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board Chairman Michael Berkoff indicated during Thursday evening’s board meeting that bankruptcy is being considered for the agency, which bounced employee paychecks last month.  Friday, he addressed that issue as well as questions surrounding former interim CEO and President Chiquita Stephenson.

“No decision (about bankruptcy) has been made yet but there are options that are under discussion and consideration,” he said. “Right now the decision is to keep NEON open and operate as possible for the consumers. We will not allow bankruptcy unless there is a local CAP (Community Action Program) agency in lower Fairfield County that will serve as NEON is designed to serve the community.”

The Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) is “looking to help us put in the controls that are needed to move the agency forward,” he said.

The public portion of Thursday’s meeting was brief but sparked with a bit of drama: the appearance of Stephenson.

“I was surprised she was there; even more surprised she didn’t say anything,” board member Michael Geake said in a Friday morning email.

Stephenson remained silent when Berkoff gave the public the opportunity to speak, then bolted from the room when an executive session was called 16 minutes after the meeting was called to order.

At last month’s meeting the board voted on whether to dismiss Stephenson, who was described as being on unpaid leave after all the employee paychecks bounced Nov. 5. Four board members voted to dismiss Stephenson and four abstained.

The minutes written by board secretary Dale Ferguson, a Stephenson supporter, called that a “no” vote. She cited Robert’s Rules of Order as she explained the issue at Thursday’s board meeting.

“In the NEON bylaws it states ‘board members present,’” she said. “Then I went to the 11th edition of Roberts Rules of Order and it stated that if the by laws specifically state present board members abstentions actually become ‘nos’.”

“Been using Robert’s Rules for decades.  Dale’s issues are new to me!” Geake said Friday morning.

Berkoff said NEON’s attorney confirmed the validity of the vote to dismiss Stephenson.

“That’s all straightened out,” he said. “Our attorney said that that vote was fine.”


12 responses to “NEON will only go bankrupt if someone else steps in, board chairman says”

  1. A Better Norwalk

    Oh, NOW you all say (after consulting with the attorney) that her dismissal via vote is valid? Come on people, this is beyond absurd!
    It’s high time the entire board be removed and some experienced individuals that have leadership skills be appointed as the new board. ENOUGH OF THIS TOM FOOLERY!
    Bankruptcy? You people didn’t have the financial statements in front of you at this meeting to even put that on the floor for discussion! Are you on the board that inept on proper decorum?
    Here it is, days before Christmas and employees have yet to receive their full salary and this board can’t even function or approve pay to those that have committed their time as employees. Where is all the money? Oh, that’s right, no financial statements during the meeting…..

  2. Just Wondering

    Yes I agree..Neon said that by December 20th All employees will be caught up in pay and yet they have failed once again. It’s a shame they have to go through this around the holidays due to the incompetence of higher management who seems to continue to struggle to do their job correctly.

  3. hersheyteach101

    Wow…….. still no pay and they had the nerve to blame Mrs. Chiquita but yet she is not there anymore, and this shameless mess is still going on….smh! Neon still has not payed out the employees they have terminated. I am so done with this side show!

  4. Dawn

    Where are the politicians now. Those people have not been paid.
    I just saw a friend who was just called back to work by CDI
    She said they are all working in the same building. CDI she says is good. She said they only hired people with degrees. Not the same for NEON. She does know that the kit hen staff is the same. Who is paying for and preparing the hot meals. Who is payin g the staff salary of the kitchen staff. Is NEON using their service. I hope not. Wouldn’t that be theft.
    Why are they sharing the building at all. There are 2 buildings. If NEON must be open then they get one building and CDI the other.

  5. Bamboozled

    @ hersheyteach….still no pay exactly!! The mess that was caused by former interim CEO will not happen overnight. It was continued under her watch so this is on her. What you may be implying sounds ridiculous. It is a shameless mess so stop trying to protect your sister

  6. Bamboozled

    CDI did not hire just people with degrees. They took on the majority of Head Start Staff. Some of the have Associates and some have CDA’s. The bottom line is providing care doe these children. They have been through enough!

  7. HeadStart is NOT about providing care for the children, it is about education and if agencies are NOT hiring qualified people (i.e Bachelor degrees) then this program is nothing more than a glorified daycare.

  8. RU4REAL

    We should be separating ourselves from the Stamford contingent as quick as we can!

  9. hersheyteach101

    @bamboozled you seem to have a personal problem with Mrs. Chiquita because all you want to do is to attack her character on here but please believe your day is coming as well….lol! Don’t you worry your pretty little head. It is funny how no one is mentioning the wrong doing of the CEO Pat and all the debt she got Neon in before she left. So Bamboozled No you stop!

  10. Questions

    It is crazy how people still didn’t get paid yet but yet they can offer Jackson 128,000 a year. He has no contact or better yet the staff still didn’t get paid. Where Jackson and Berkoff said they will get paid in full by DECEMBER 20, 2013. Here it is DECEMBER 23 and still have to wait. It will be so crazy that all the money that has been missing goes all the way back to when Burgess was in office.

  11. Just Wondering

    @Questions.. I agree NEON continues to dig a huge hole for themselves. I don’t see how they can be caught before the end of this year. These teachers are the ones who are truly suffering not the families who are now receiving care for their children. When will the pain end????

  12. questions

    There are more kids that are not in school. But the families of the teachers and workers.

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