Rilling intel: Expect NEON action within 2 to 3 weeks

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Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board member Jack O’Dea.

NORWALK, Conn. – It seems there are no easy answers when it comes to Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), the South Norwalk-based anti-poverty agency that has been teetering on bankruptcy for months.

Mayor Harry Rilling, who months ago began having every-other-day conversations with Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) transitional CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson, said Monday afternoon that nothing definitive has been decided about the Community Action Program (CAP) agency.

“That’s still under discussion now as to what’s going to happen with NEON and how the next CAP agency will evolve,” Rilling said. “Obviously there can only be one CAP agency in a community and I want to see a CAP agency evolve quickly, because the people in the city have been without services for too long a period of time. Thank goodness we were able to get Head Start back up and running, helping to bring some relief. But in my conversation with Rev. Jackson this morning, it was clear that something will be happening within the next couple of weeks, or by the first part of May. I told him that we need to sit down with all the stakeholders and formulate a plan as to what is happening and how it is happening.”

Sources have said NEON officials are struggling to decide whether they want to go Chapter 11 bankruptcy or Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 would mean the organization would cease to exist, while Chapter 11 would mean a reorganization.

“Beware of a chameleon,” one NancyOnNorwalk commenter said last week.

Would NEON leaders try to reinvent the agency as a new CAP agency?

“I would say probably not,” NEON board member Jack O’Dea said. “The same people involved and try to reinvent themselves? I would think probably not.”

O’Dea said there’s a need for a well-functioning CAP agency in the area.

“There’s a lot of people who need this kind of service … people with a tough lot in life, on and on and on. You need somebody to be able come in.”

O’Dea pointed to the amount of money involved in NEON when it was operating full throttle, and to the problems that seemed to follow the agency.

“You’ve got a program (with a budget) that is 12 million dollars. When you look back at the situation over so the past several years, it seems to be like an ongoing condition. … This place seems to have been a problem for some time. The frustrating thing to me is you have all these people on the board, where did they all go?” he said, referring to board members who resigned.

He also said CAP agencies in general are plagued with difficulties and traced NEON’s problems to the merger with Stamford’s CTE.

“Somebody threw the ball and NEON picked it up and ran with it. Instead of NEON picking up the ball and running with it, somebody should have tried to figure out why did CTE break down? A lot of people, good people, were involved in CTE. It’s not easy to run a $15 million program in a city. It’s not something that just happens. You look around the countryside, a lot of communities seem to start these kind of programs and a lot of them seem to go up in smoke. What is the problem? … Somebody needs to come in and take a hard-nosed look. How do you run these kinds of programs without the problem repeating itself?”


11 responses to “Rilling intel: Expect NEON action within 2 to 3 weeks”

  1. Sara Sikes

    Wonder what will happen to the building assets and who will pay the bankruptcy lawyers’ fees?

  2. Community

    The city of Norwalk will be paying for everything. Just like they paid for the merge they are going to continue to pay. Tax payers and all and we thank you.

  3. Bill

    Easy solution to keep CAP’s viable, don’t hire a high school graduate who does not even hold an associate’s degree to run the CAP and make $150k+ a year.

  4. the donut hole

    Bill, until someone gets indicted this will continue to happen and grow even worse as they scream for more and more money. There were frauds committed here so obvious to the naked eye, it really begs to ask what the mission is of the state’s attorneys. These criminals are stealing from the neediest people in our society. It doesn’t get more disgusting than this.

  5. lightning

    Like to see if the staff will get the monies they lost from this whole ordeal.

  6. LWitherspoon

    @donut hole
    Let’s be a little careful about declaring that obvious fraud occurred here. At the moment nobody knows what happened. I agree that there are unanswered questions that are very troubling, but nobody has produced evidence of fraud yet. Serious mismanagement, certainly. Improper use of expense accounts, I believe so. But not fraud.
    I recall reading that Mayor Rilling directed NEON to preserve all financial records. What ever became of that request? Will there be an investigation?
    I hope taxpayers will insist on a full investigation. It would be a shame if we never learn the full story because certain elected officials from both parties – including Doug Hempstead, Bruce Morris, Bob Duff, and others – would look bad.

  7. anon

    A full investigation is due. Who in this city government has the leadership and honor to ask for it? Rilling? Duff? Hempstead? Morris? Where is the outrage? If only it were the Norwalk Aquarium.

  8. Norwalk Spectator

    @Lightening – I believe I read someplace that the former NEON Head Start teaching staff transferred over to the Housing Authority and have been on their payroll since then. As for the other staff, I don’t know who would be responsible for paying them.
    @ Spoon – I seem to remember that NON had an article about the fact that when the Housing Authority took over the Head Start program, one of the problems was that they had no financial paperwork on the program at all from NEON. Wasn’t that the reason why the City Finance Department stepped in to help figure the amounts out? That alone raises questions, particularly as the funding was from the Federal Government. But it looks like NEON is being given a pass on this. And as today is Tax Day, just think about how fast the IRS would be on your doorstep if you failed to pay your taxes or filed without the appropriate back up.

  9. Community

    That’s why it goes to who has their hand in it. Now the same people that was there when Neon was going bad they are now trying to get another CAP agency, how does that work. More money to keep the new agency going as well as clean this mess that’s happening now.

  10. lightning

    @Norwalk Spectator. I am not talking about payroll. I am talking about lost monies not yet received from NEON. NEON deducted monies from payroll checks for insurances, and insurances were never paid. This created HUGE BILLS. Paid vacation not yet received. Some payroll not yet received. NHA is not paying this debt.

  11. the donut hole

    @spoon. Fraud, noun…..deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.
    Lying about academic credentials to secure a job. Spending money on fancy suits and briefcases that is supposed to go to children’s lunches are just a few examples. Usually when there is fraud on the surface, it runs very deep.

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