(Updated 9:20 p.m. Nov. 7, number of people furloughed, new headline)
NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board of Directors Chairman Michael Berkoff has furloughed “most” NEON staff pending an internal financial and program review, Berkoff confirmed in a phone call Wednesday night.
Thursday night, Berkoff said the number of furloughed employees is 50, with 49 others still working.
It was not known exactly which programs were being affected Wednesday, but Berkoff said the Energy Assistance program was one of just three that are up and running. Thursday, a NEON spokesman said the Stamford after-school program was open.
An employee said that NEON’s childcare program was closed Wednesday and will be closed through the week, leaving hundreds of families without childcare.
Berkoff confirmed the action was taken because NEON did not have the money to continue operating the programs that depend on DSS funding.
Berkoff said an intial report that the furloughs were for 60 days was not correct. “I can’t tell you right now if it’s 60 days or six days,” he said.
The chairman said a board meeting is planned for Thursday night in Stamford when, following an executive session a new CEO will be announced.
Berkoff’s words confirmed the end of the brief, turbulent Chiquita Stephenson era as interim President and CEO (see separate story).
An anonymous source told NancyOnNorwalk that the Rev. Tommie Jackson of Stamford’s Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church would be taking over the reins as a “turnaround specialist.” Berkoff said he had no comment on that.
Berkoff also said the board be coming up with a plan for where they are taking NEON and, within a week, an action plan to get there. NEON is working with Community Development Institute (CDI) to transfer its Head Start children to their care. The situation is complicated because NEON offers other services at Nathaniel Ely School and the Ben Franklin Center, where Head Start classes are held. Berkhoff said NEON is waiting for CDI to develop the legal language for a Memorandum of Understanding that would prevent NEON from being held responsible for any liabilities incurred by CDI.
NEON failed to make its payroll Monday, and some employees said they were told by Stephenson there was no money to pay them and no date when money might be available. Stephenson was placed on unpaid leave Wednesday morning.
The furloughs became known just hours after NEON directors received an email from the Department of Social Services informing the local agency that DSS would not renew one contract when it ends Dec. 31, and placing NEON on notice that it is in danger of losing other DSS contracts.