Rilling: Too early to talk about funding NEON

NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor-elect Harry Rilling said Friday morning that it will take time before Norwalk can consider resuming financial contributions to the troubled Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) social service agency.

“Until we can get some responsible leadership in place it would be irresponsible to appropriate any city funds to an agency that doesn’t have any proper financial controls,” he said. “We need to make sure that we get responsible leadership and we get proper reporting, and proper documentation of expenditures is going to take place and that we know the money is going to be used in the proper way it’s supposed to be allocated.”

Rilling was elected Tuesday and will take office Nov. 22. Incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia pulled city funding — about $1.3 million a year — when a federal audit showed funds were being misused and financial accounting was a shambles. Former NEON interim presidents and CEOs Pat Wilson Pheanious and Chiquita Stephenson have blamed the cut in funding for heavily contributing to NEON’s current problems, including not being able to cover payroll. DSS auditors have said it was NEON’s management failures, including not cutting programs and personnel when the city pulled its funding, that let to the problems.

“Once I’m in office I’m going to meet with all the stakeholders including the state, feds, the board chair,” Rilling said. “Until then, I don’t have all that facts as to what’s going on. They need to get their board of directors in place, they need to get their financial controls in place, and then we can start moving forward,” he said.

The Rev. Tommie Jackson, appointed interim CEO of NEON Thursday night, addressed the Norwalk funding is a press conference after his appointment.

“The city of Norwalk had an agreement with NEON that they would provide $1.3 million for the past two fiscals years, which totals $2.6 million,” he said. “If that $2.6 million was received in addition to monies from DOC and DSS, it certainly would have been to the benefit of NEON. It would have been able to provide services that are needed in a productive way for the immediate future.”

He said he was hopeful Norwalk would restore funding.

“Yes, I am very hopeful,” he said. ” Those monies are not in the current fiscal year budget but that does not mean that there might not be some discretionary way to put that $1.3 million in there, or even if it’s not $1.3 million a portion of it for NEON to go forward with its operations.”



33 responses to “Rilling: Too early to talk about funding NEON”

  1. EveT

    Rilling is absolutely right: NEON needs to get their financial controls in place before receiving any more money from the city.

  2. Break the Unions

    This is just talk from Rilling. Within days of taking office he will deem years of mismanagement at NEON all fixed.MARK MY WORD

  3. Just Wondering

    After being part of the ‘impromptu march on city hall’ with pena and watts it would seem a little insincere if he were to hold back funding at this point after trying to appear to be a man of common folk just 10 or 11 days ago….

    And what happens to Stephenson now?

  4. Casey Smith

    “If that $2.6 million was received in addition to monies from DOC and DSS, it certainly would have been to the benefit of NEON. It would have been able to provide services that are needed in a productive way for the immediate future.” – Rev. Jackson.
    I most respectfully disagree with Rev. Jackson on this issue. If the 2.6 million had been given by the City it simply would have prolonged the problem. NEON needed to get its house in order three or four years ago. But they didn’t and that was their choice. Finally, DSS took some action and now HUD is on the move.
    If and when NEON gets things straightened out, fine. But until they do, it would be irresponsible for the City to give them funds knowing the funding is being misused.

  5. Oldtimer

    Just Wondering
    Rilling was not part of the “march on City hall” he went to City hall for another event scheduled in the auditorium and walked into the “march”. He passed through the lobby and spoke to a few people before continuing to the auditorium.
    Before Rilling does anything about NEON he will very carefully gather a lot of information from a lot of people so he can make informed decisions and no one person will have undue influence on his decisions. He, like most cops, has a very healthy suspicion about stories people tell.

  6. LWitherspoon

    For those wondering about the City’s past actions on NEON:
    January 28, 2013: NORWALK — A city panel this week recommended providing Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now $90,000 to run its 2013 youth summer camp.
    But the Grant Agency Review Committee advised against giving the city’s anti-poverty agency a $750,000 grant to help run its Head Start program and a $375,500 grant to cover administrative costs.
    “They are still in the process of fixing a number of things, certainly their board of directors, getting that established, the new bylaws, the new management structure. Also, we have not yet received audited financial statements for either NEON or CTE (Inc.),” said Fred Wilms, chairman of the panel and also the Board of Estimate and Taxation. NEON “made a very detailed presentation (Tuesday night). It appears that they have been making process, but I think we all agreed there’s more work to be done.”
    I believe there were similar comments in 2012.

  7. Just Wondering

    @Oldtimer And I quote thee “He, like most cops, has a very healthy suspicion about stories people tell.” Do you really think that wasn’t staged? It was genius and disingenuous all in one brilliant stroke!

  8. marjoriem

    He hasn’t even sat in the Mayot’s chair, and people are going for the jugular. At least give him a chance.

  9. Don’t Panic

    Oh boy. Seems the Reverend is going to pursue the Stephenson strategy of trying to shame Norwalk into restoring funding. NOT the best opening play.

  10. Tim T

    The thing you forget to mention is that he has a history for 14 years as police consultant. So whether or not he has taken the chair as mayor we know what he is going to be like and its not going to be good.

  11. Broderick I. Sawyer

    Come on people he isn’t Mayor yet and when he is give him a chance to look at the facts, then he can make an informed decision.
    I think it’s silly to speculate as to what he may or may not do.
    First thing is for Neon to release all records, then and only then can they move forward.
    I would agree that the funding is necessary for our community members in need, that said, as long as the money is used for those in need.

  12. WHAT?

    @ Tim T
    You nailed it. For years the people I know at the courthouse kept asking: ‘who the hell does this guy have pictures of to stay chief of police.’ The permissive cowboy exploits allowed in the department under him were inexplicable. We now have a chief of police running the department in a town run by the chief of police.

  13. Norwalk Lifer

    Good for Rilling, get the facts then act.

    Anyone disagree with that?

  14. EDR

    Two words -forensic audit!

  15. Oldtimer

    Forensic audits generally are based on analysis of existing financial records, looking for problems, like payroll checks to non-existing employees or a change in patterns of purchases of supplies.
    Without such records, over a period of several years, a forensic audit would be very difficult and expensive. Board members have been resigning because they have not seen records. It is hard to imagine NEON has not kept some records. An audit is how the approx. $400,000 misused funds were discovered a few years ago. Since nobody was ever charged with stealing then, I expect the records audited were incomplete and have not improved much since. The complaints seem to revolve around commingling of funds from different programs and not keeping good records and/or receipts. Reconstructing several years worth of records would be an enormous job, but may be required before anyone can tell if money is really missing. After that is done, then a decision will have to be made if a forensic audit is necessary. Sloppy book keeping is not, in itself, evidence of criminal intent.

  16. Break the Unions

    Norwalk Lifer
    You ask if anyone disagrees with Rilling getting the facts. Well if those were not empty words that would be fine. However Rilling seems to be filled with empty words both as police chief and a candidate for Mayor. Maybe you forgot about the Amanda Brown incident where he was waiting for the facts. He has yet to condemn that violence and never will. Maybe he is still waiting.

  17. RU4REAL

    Correction Lifer the Brown AND Krummel incident, why do people continue to leave the Krummels name out of it?
    Only two possible reasons I think; one is those posting are friends of the Krummels, the second is there maybe racism involved by omitting them every time the conversation comes up.
    Remember the Krummels started the whole thing by getting in Ms. Browns face because they couldn’t have their way.
    One way to find out is the next time ANYONE brings it up without mentioning the Krummels involvement, I personally go with the racism theory.
    Mention it again for me so we can figure out any posters motives for not mentioning ALL participants involved.

  18. Kayla

    I don’t really care about all the politics right now– what about all of us hard working parents (500 kids out of care) that don’t have a decent daycare anymore and need to figure it out THIS weekend? That’s the question that almost no one has had any suggestions for. Out of those thousand parents many of them are risking their jobs now trying to figure this out.

  19. So okay – the Krummels were “yellowing” too loudly so Brown BEAT THE SNOT out of elderly people? Wow….what a “responsible” adult.
    Usually, that’s assault but not on the democratic watch….
    Where is the “racism” in that – it is proven – she PUMMELED senior citizens…
    Never one word about race…
    Besides, this is a non-issue – SHE GOT AWAY WITH IT…


  20. OOPs — “yelling”
    (wouldn’t want to think I was using color as a reason it was okay for the Krummels to yell at Brown)

  21. Don’t Panic

    Oak Hills suggesting someone else get a forensic audit? Very interesting.

  22. The Deal

    Everything being mentioned here happened while Moccia & Co. were in control but it’s Mayor-elect Rilling’s fault?………..way too much anger…………

  23. LWitherspoon

    “Until we can get some responsible leadership in place it would be irresponsible to appropriate any city funds to an agency that doesn’t have any proper financial controls,”
    Absolutely right, Mayor-elect Rilling!
    I find it interesting that now that the election is over, the Mayor-elect’s position on funding NEON is exactly the same as Mayor Moccia’s.
    I find it fascinating that now that the election is over, you’ve finally admitted to knowing the appropriate circumstances for a forensic audit.

  24. Tim T

    The Deal
    If this ends up being a criminal incident, which is looking more and more likely. It happened when Rilling was police consultant so that blows you Moccia and company theory . Hummmm

  25. Tim T

    Sorry forgot to add. Last I checked it was up to the police department to be on top of criminal activity, if that is what this ends up being and not the Mayor.

  26. Oldtimer

    What are you trying to say ?
    There is a time, and a place, for forensic audits. I suggested Oak Hills might be a good place for a variety of reasons and I stand by my position. NEON is another situation entirely because it sounds as if they have been commingling funds, and expenses, without keeping records. Trying to do a forensic audit without several years of decent records would be very difficult, if not impossible. An operation like NEON needs excellent book keeping and they have apparently been muddling along without much of any book keeping. Hard to imagine nobody taking criminal advantage of their lack of records.

  27. RU4REAL

    The racism comes from Ms. Brown being called a black b, then getting slapped with a pancake sized hand.
    Ms. Brown was assaulted both verbally and physically, I would have probably hit him back too.
    Its only an issue when people keep bringing it up, so cut it out.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @RU4REAL, Irish Girl, et al

      OK folks, I think this has just about hit the point where it needs to be retired. You’ve made your points, but I want to cut this off before the whole racism topic gets too nasty.

  28. Norwalk Lifer

    Thank you Mark Chapman, it’s unfortunate that the Krummels used language and disrespect, that in turn caused disrespect.

    It was an ugly situation, born out of political ambition for Mr. Krummel’s wife.

    I seem to recall Michael Geake experiencing the same kind of situation when his wife was not voted in.

    It seems that personal ambition caused unfortunate events. Michael Geake’s robocalls were a topic for me, a week before the election. I found it un-welcome, un-professional and yes, annoying.

    It was more of the gossipy, suburbanite offal usually dished out during election cycles.

    But the motivation was ambition, Both the Krummels and the Geakes should learn from this lesson.

    Once you understand the motivation behind the actions, the situation gets a little easier to understand.

    No one should be subjected to personal attacks, but then again, if one keeps their own annoyance about a family member being passed over private, then it does not become a forum for a public debate.

    THAT’S the real issue in both sorry cases.

    Norwalk Lifer

  29. Norwalk Lifer

    @Break the Unions, just your name tells me loads about how you think: you use the word “Break” destroy, abolish, anniliate.

    No thank you, I’ll wait for this mayor to do his assessment, as opposed to the last mayor who went radio silent on this whole mess until two days before the election, where he urged NEON to go completely transparent and cooperate or he would call “Mommy” the Feds.

    And with regards to Ms. Brown, the Krummels, etc, you seem to forget that Ms. Brown was approached first by the Krummels, called a derogatory name, and then slapped in the face.

    If that hadn’t happened, I don’t think any former Police Chief would have a problem with weighing in the situation.

    If you think it’s okay for people, of ANY AGE, to use this kind of language and have the “right” to slap someone in the face like that. Then I have only one thing to say:


    Glad you are not the Chief of Police in Norwalk

    Norwalk Lifer

  30. Tim T

    Norwalk Lifer
    Rilling has a history of doing assessments and never coming to a conclusion. This was clear by his 14 years as police consultant. We seen it over and over again. Rilling stating the NPD was close to catching one of the violent offenders in Norwalk yet it never happened. We seen Rilling stating about the Amanda Brown incident that he was waiting for all the facts and yet again never a statement condemning violence . Rilling survives by just waiting things out and hoping the taxpayer just forgets.
    He is an empty suit.

  31. RU4REAL

    Nuff said Mark, thank you.

  32. @Mark,
    It wasn’t really the racist card that was played that was the focus – it was by all certainty the way that Rilling overlooks what he wants to overlook (and accept) is the way he will be once he is in office.
    While I care about having a strong management team hired (and that means firing everyone down to the janitor), it should be the first and foremost priority to find out where that money went and hold those people criminally responsible.
    IF and WHEN that happens THEN the Mayor should proceed cautiously and wait a year or two to see how funds and programs are managed and if NEON learned their lesson and abided by the laws that govern them. Then he MAY start with SMALL amounts of money that may be LEFT OVER in the city’s account to GIVE to them.

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