Peña: Ferrandinos ‘could have retired here’

Then-SoNoCC Executive Director Marina Forero-Ferrandino
Then-SoNoCC Executive Director Marina Forero-Ferrandino, left, and then SoNoCC board Chairman Warren Peña attend the Common Council swearing in last fall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Warren Peña wasn’t going to respond personally to the allegations leveled against him by Marina Forero-Ferrandino and her husband, Pat Ferrandino, after both were fired from their volunteer positions with the South Norwalk Community Center. Peña, who has taken a leave of absence from his position as Chairman of the Board at SoNoCC, was going to just let his June 30 letter to the board speak for him.

Still, in a Thursday phone conversation with NancyOnNorwalk, Peña wanted to emphasize a few points.

“They could have had it all,” he said of the couple from New Canaan who worked for a year as volunteers in charge of the center’s day-to-day operations.

“We gave them everything they wanted,” he said. “They could have retired here.”

But that won’t happen now. Forero-Ferrandino, who spent most of the past year as the Center’s executive director, was dismissed June 9, labelled “the wrong person for the job” by Peña and the SoNoCC board. Pat Ferrandino, her deputy director, stepped up, believing he could work with the board and act as a go-between between his wife – a volunteer service provider – and Peña. But that didn’t work out, and, on June 30, Pat Ferrandino was terminated.

The couple had spent the past year working countless hours in a volunteer capacity, working to establish SoNoCC in the community, find a revenue stream and get the Center into a position to be able to pay them for their services.

Peña said it was their growing animosity toward him and their resistance to following his and the board’s decisions that started things downhill. He said that, while he was not in favor of the arrangement that would put Pat Ferrandino in charge, he went along with the rest of the four-person board’s decision. But, shortly afterward, the Ferrandinos leveled their charges against Pena in writing to the board, prompting Peña to write a rebuttal and to recommend terminating what had been a 90-day interim trial run after only a week.

In his letter to the board, Peña accused Pat Ferrandino of lying to the board about his knowledge of an activity, said the board had lost “faith, trust and confidence” in the interim director, accused him of putting personal needs ahead of the community, a conflict of interest having to do with his wife’s non-profit, and insubordination, among other things (see list at end of story).

The board called an executive session and took swift action. The firing came while, outside, dozens of protesters called for Forero-Ferrandino’s reinstatement and Peña’s departure.

Peña, who is running for the state representative seat held by fellow Democrat Bruce Morris in the 140th District, announced at the meeting that he would take a leave of absence until after the campaign. Morris is the Democratic Party-endorsed candidate. Morris outpolled Peña in a district vote, 222-99, to win the party backing. Peña obtained petition signatures to get on the primary election ballot (Aug. 12). At this time there is no Republican challenger, so the primary winner would likely face no opposition in November.

There has been no announcement of a replacement for Ferrandino. Ferrandino told NancyOnNorwalk that the Rev. Oscar Destruge would take a leave of absence from the board to become the interim director, but Interim Board Chairman and Attorney Ed Camacho said that is not true.

Warren Peña's point-by-point letter to the SoNoCC board detailing his complaints against Pat Ferrandino.
Warren Peña’s point-by-point letter to the SoNoCC board detailing his complaints against Pat Ferrandino. Click to see larger image.


15 responses to “Peña: Ferrandinos ‘could have retired here’”

  1. Pat Ferrandino

    Rather than respond to these malicious and egregious attacks that are unsubstantiated and meant to deflect attention from Mr. Pena’s abuse of his position and his improprieties while serving as Chairman, I defer any response to another day as we celebrate the birthday of our great nation.

    Happy Fourth of July!

  2. LWitherspoon

    Pena’s point-by-point letter detailing Mr. Ferrandino’s misdeeds makes vague accusations and is very short on details and evidence. Hard to believe everything listed happened over the course of just one week. Did the SoNoCC board ask Mr. Pena to provide evidence backing up each accusation, or simply go along with Pena’s request? With such a small board it would be easy for Mr. Pena to work behind the scenes and flip one or two votes to produce a majority willing to dismiss Pat Ferrandino, which was the outcome he wanted the first time but couldn’t get. I still fail to understand how SoNoCC is better off without the full-time FREE services of two hard-working volunteers who have been instrumental in creating the After the Bell partnership with the BoE as well as free music lessons. Is Mr. Pena willing to volunteer full-time for free, the way that the Ferrandinos were? It’s disappointing to see those music lessons taking place near a dumpster in Ryan Park because Mr. Pena is in yet another conflict that doesn’t seem to be finding its way towards an amicable resolution. There is clearly more to this story.
    What is Mr. Pena’s response to the allegation that he improperly and illegally used $1600 of SoNoCC money to promote himself in the last election?

  3. Bill

    The public has spoken and no one trusts Mr. Pena anymore, not with our votes nor our money.

  4. Ms Ruby McPherson

    Its been some years now, but I remember going to a conference in
    Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was living in New Britain with our Weed and Seed program. Back then a non-profit agency should have been using retired executives as top(Directors, managers)volunteers and not getting these huge corporate salaries. With grants and donation your staff(receptionist, teacher etc) So even those its a lot of phone contact with the right volunteers in place you can run a good non-profit for the community. Pat and wife had an agenda, as Mr. Pena stated. […]
    The community as a whole and staff who lost there jobs, even when Neon was going, a lot of staff worked no knowing if or when they would get paid (worked overtime that they never got paid, because the cared and has the passion for there community). Pat and Marina was for strictly Latino. But after much criticism Pat tried to reach out I hear to one of the Rev. to see if he could get some Black. But most was treated in a way by Marina I was told they didn’t care to go back. With right people up and down we can bring back the staff that worked for the community ( Mrs. Juanita,Veronica DeJesus, Tamara Joseph, Vanessa Ocascio,
    Ms. Martha and Banks. They did case management, sent you were you needed to go, assist you with what ever you needed and also energy assistance. I hope it happens

    This comment was edited to remove character assassination by innuendo and introducing personal and partially unsubstantiated information without relevance. There have been no allegations of financial wrongdoing by the Ferrandinos. Also, much of the information here about past employees refers to NEON, not SoNoCC, which has had, we are told by people on both sides of this situation, one paid employee in the past year — a part-timer brought in to write grants.

  5. Saul A

    This post has been deleted because of out ban on sock puppets.

  6. As the personal attorney who had attempted to help forge a resolution of the differences that were threatening to undermine the relationship between the South Norwalk Community Center’s Board Chairman and its Executive Director, I had been the under the impression that my conversations with Edwin Camacho were to be kept in confidence. However, having read Mr. Pena’s characterization of those conversations, I feel comfortable responding.

    Mr. Pena cited Mr. Ferrandino’s request that I attempt to intervene to review his concerns with SNCC Board member Edwin Camacho as a sign of Mr. Ferrandino’s unfitness. Whether Mr. Pena merely resented being questioned on his misappropriation of SNCC assets for private political gain, or thought the public airing of these allegations would somehow be in the best interests of the SNCC, is a question that (for the time being) will remain unanswered. As the current Board actions indicate, Mr. Camacho sought to remove the volunteers who had raised significant concerns and allow Mr. Pena to remain as chairman, albeit subject to a “temporary” leave of absence (which violates the SNCC’s own bylaws).

    The meandering, Captain-Queeg quality of Mr. Pena’s manifesto against the two dedicated volunteers who helped to rebuild the SNCC can certainly cause one to speculate why, after firing them both, Mr. Pena feels compelled to heap insult upon the injury he has already inflicted. However, in fairness to Pat and Marina, and because the space constraints available for comments preclude a detailed response, I have emailed to this site a more detailed response to Mr. Pena’s unfounded attacks.

  7. Carlos Rodriguez

    This post has been deleted because of out ban on sock puppets.

  8. Norwalk Cares

    “Carlos”- You seem confused. The same thing that will keep Colarossi out of party politics is what makes him dangerous for Warren Pena and Edwin Camacho. He’s shown that he will challenge the sacred cows and take on the politicians. He obviously doesn’t care if party leaders get angry with him.
    If I were Pat and Marina I’d want someone like that fighting for me.

  9. loveforthecity

    Norwalk Cares aka Par Ferrandino defending himself and his wife

  10. Lisa Thomson

    @Norwalk Cares Now, the plot thickens (sadly, it always does in Norwalk.) Is this SoNoCC debacle about “the children” or the “community” or “volunteerism” or is it about settling old political scores? With Mr. Colorossi’s involvement, I sense the old guard from NPS rising up. What a small world it is!

    @ LWitherspoon It was Dr. Rivera that was instrumental in creating the After The Bell partnership with SoNoCc (not The other way around) due to it’s location and proximity to the the children of South Norwalk. Dr. Rivera was also looking for other locations within Sono (Carver, Grace Baptist Church) to get more after school programs into the community to close the achievement gap. I believe he went on record as trying to close it by 2020. State law prohibits South Norwalk from having its own neighborhood school due to racial balancing requirements. Hence, these children are at a disadvantage, not only to poverty, but to the convenience and proximity of after school services.

    @Pat Ferradino I thank you and Marina for you efforts at SoNoCC. Volunteering for a whole year to help get SoNoCC off the ground after the crash and burn of NEON was a long time – especially if it was in anticipation of eventual compensation for employment once grant monies started coming in. However, don’t let your anger at Mr. Pena make you team up with those who may have their own agenda. What’s the old saying, “if your enemy is my enemy…” While, I am not usually into conspiracy theories (again, this is Norwalk) but as the cast of characters line up with the Ferradinos against Mr. Pena (who has and is challenging the status quo in South Norwalk) the more this looks less about ‘volunteerism’ and the ‘community’ and more about taking down Pena and SoNoCC and any threats to the current political Infrastructure in South Norwalk. Additionally, many of these folks are the same ones who fought steadfastly against the reforms attempted by Dr. Marks several years ago, that are now being successfully implemented by Dr. Rivera and Mike Lyons and fought against under the guise of ‘racism.’

    It’s a shame that Norwlk’s legendary dysfunctional politics ruin most positive headlines about this great city.

  11. Pat Ferrandino

    Loveforthecity a/k/a Warren:

    I unequivocally deny posting as “Norwalk Cares”. I can only speculate, as you have just done, who it might be. In the past, I have used a “pseudo” to protect the interests of SoNoCC. I have not used any “pseudos” in quite some time and I’ve come to believe that transparency is much more desirable. What I do find most despicable is the use of fictitious names, especially ethnically defined names, e.g. Carlos Rodriguez, to emphasize a point of view pretending to be a member of a particular ethnic group.

  12. Carlos Rodriguez

    This post was not allowed because of our ban of sock puppetry

  13. Pat Ferrandino

    @Lisa Thomson:

    Perhaps the time has come to “let the cat out of the bag” and reveal that you are not some disinterested commentor. The fact is that you are a founding member of “Red Apples”. Another co-founder of “Red Apples”, Lauren Rosato, who had been previously contracted by SoNoCC as a grant writer, most recently has been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Warren Pena, who stated in A Letter from the Chairman of the Board dated June 16, 2014: “Lauren Rosato – is to serve on a volunteer basis for the After the Bell program… We will put together a MOU for her so that there is a clear understanding of our expectations.” Oh, yes, I’ve been told repeatedly that she also “Created the After The Bell program.” Your constant patronizing of Dr. Rivera is these blogs is self-serving. His career record speaks for itself.

    When Marina and I began our work at SoNoCC, we presented as our stated vision: To be recognized as a leading local Agency, championing the needs of our Latino community and the greater South Norwalk community at-large, advancing its educational, economic and physical well being, helping its members achieve their highest potential as contributors to society. To that end, when Dr. Rivera was subsequently named NPS Superintendent, we met with him, and we all immediately realized a common desire. A Memorandum of Intent ensued.

    Your suggesting that Attorney Steve Colarossi’s involvement ‘is about settling old scores” or “the old guard from NPS rising up” is simply not the case. Steve has been our personal attorney for several years and, since Marina and I live out of town, I have no knowledge, to this day, of “old scores” or “old guard”. I don’t even know anything about “Red Apples”, other than that both you and Lauren Rosato are among its “co-founders.”

  14. Lisa Thomson

    A few things Pat:

    1) It’s unfortunate that folks at SoNOcc couldn’t play together in the sandbox for the good of the children.
    2) No ‘cat is being let out of the bag’ that I am a co-founder of Red Apples. Everyone on the NoN site knows this.
    3) I am neither a politician nor involved with SoNoCc, I am a mother and an activist that pays attention to what goes on in Norwalk.
    4) Thankfully, under Rivera’s and Lyon’s leadership this district IS moving forward.
    5) It’s unfortunate that the adults in Norwalk constantly make it about themselves and not the children.

    Now, I am going out to enjoy my weekend and so should so you 🙂

  15. I know paying attention to her innuendo is what she wants, but even Lisa Thompson has to be embarrassed by what she’s written. No matter had badly she wants to make Pena look good (everyone knows she wants Morris to lose), does she think that fabricating something about their lawyer will hurt them so much that everybody forgets what Pena has done?
    She tosses out some bizarre lie that the Ferrandino’s lawyer is representing some secret faction of the Norwalk Public Schools. Maybe she didn’t read the headline, but the story is about a NON-PROFIT in South Norwalk, not the Norwalk Public Schools.

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