SoNoCC protesters call for Warren Peña’s removal from board

Update, 4:30 a.m., complete story.

Kurt Ruiz
Kurt Ruiz, 10, right, didn’t know any musical notes when he began to learn to play the recorder for free class in October at the South Norwalk Community Center, Marina Forero-Ferrandino said. He lives steps away from the center, Pat Ferrandino said.

NORWALK, Conn. – Protesters outside the South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) Monday evening called for the ouster of Warren Peña as chairman of the board and the return of recently terminated volunteer Marina Forero-Ferrandino, the former executive director who had become a service provider for the Latino community.

About 250 people, including mothers of children enrolled in programs at SoNoCC, signed a petition that was turned in at the protest by people – many of them Spanish speakers – bearing signs saying “Peña must go” and “Bring back Marina.” Children played saxophones and recorders as protesters chanted “We want Marina back!” and “Peña, shame on you!”

Forero-Ferrandino’s services were terminated by Peña and the board June 25, leaving participants without several programs. An email sent by Peña to board members accused Forero-Ferrandino of ruining his reputation. Forero-Ferrandino’s husband and former deputy director, Pat Ferrandino, took over as director when Forero-Ferrandino left and became a service provider. Both have been volunteers.

Peña, the former at-large Common Councilman, is currently running against incumbent fellow Democrat state Rep. Bruce Morris to represent Norwalk’s 140th District in the General Assembly. There currently is no Republican candidate. The primary election is set for Aug. 12.

Many of those participating in the protest said they did not know who Peña is. That included Lorena Gallago, who said she had been in the center every day for months.

“We need Marina back,” Gloria Ochoa said.

The children playing music as adults chanted “Shame on Warren Peña” were in the recorder class organized by Forero-Ferrandino. After about 20 minutes, Forero-Ferrandino appeared, collecting hugs as she held back tears.

“These kids didn’t know how to play one note in November when we started the classes,” she said.

She said she didn’t know there was going to be a protest. “I know the moms were very angry and frightened when I said that I had to leave. I just feel for the community,” she said.

She said she didn’t know why the center’s board of directors had voted to end its relationship with her.

“Maybe because I did too much for the community. Warren is saying he only wants programs that bring money to the center,” she said.

The music class is free, she said. The teachers are volunteers and the mothers raise money to buy the children instruments, she said.

“I say shame on Warren Peña,” Forero-Ferrandino said. “He should leave us alone. He should leave the board. He is poison to this organization. He doesn’t care for the community. He is not the leader of the Hispanic community, they don’t even know who he is.”

Norwalk Republican politician Victor Cavallo, who stopped to see what was going on, called the protest “amazing” and speculated that it had been organized by Morris supporters.

Two protesters said they didn’t know who Bruce Morris is.

Carlos Amaya said he did not know Morris but did know Peña. “We don’t like him,” he said.

Ana Cecilia Mavila said the protest was not political.

“We are here for her,” she said of Forero-Ferrandino. “Because she brought life to the community center, for the community, our children are here … Everything is about her and the community. We need all these programs because the center was absolutely dead. It was no programs that were helping our children. But now, they are here now. Even they are here right now. They are practicing what they have learned here. That’s beautiful for the community.”

South Norwalk 063014 245
Marina Forero-Ferrandino greets supporters Monday at the South Norwalk Community Center.



13 responses to “SoNoCC protesters call for Warren Peña’s removal from board”

  1. OhNoNorwalk

    What about his friend Watts

  2. S.O.S Venezuela

    Can’t help to think whenever I hear this name Pena = Norwalks’ own version of Hugo Chavez. Aren’t we lucky?

  3. LWitherspoon

    Both Marina Forero-Ferrandino and Pat Ferrandino were unpaid volunteers, if I remember correctly.

  4. Bill

    The Ferrandinos donated time and money for no financial aggrandizement, yet Pena has been trying to make money off of SoNoCC for years. It is sad that this corruption has taken over SoNoCC, Pena must go for good, and Comacho is not acting like a good leader either.

  5. New Era

    What is done is done. Community Center should move on with out issues like this.

  6. John Levin

    S.O.S. Venezuela – I think you are badly confused. And please consider using an actual name. Courage.

  7. anon

    This didn’t spring up from nowhere, too organized. @Chapman who started the petition? It seems either the Ferandino’s were behind it, or as one poster suggests, Bruce Morris.

  8. Pat Ferrandino

    I am so proud of my amazing wife, Marina Forero-Ferrandino. She interrupted a highly successful business career to raise our two children: Angelica, a recent Princeton University graduate and Jon-Luke, a student-athlete at Iona College. She wanted to do something for the South Norwalk community she called home for seven years when she first arrived to this country from Bogota, Colombia before moving to New Canaan. As Executive Director of SoNoCC, she had single-handedly turned a scandal-ridden excuse of a non-profit organization into a rising model of success. What a shame that the powers to be (or not to be) have shunned her and the wonderful families she has touched through her more than 3,000 volunteer hours at SoNoCC. Shame on Warren Pena (Chairman), Ed Camacho, Esq. (Deputy Chairman), Pastor Oscar Destruge (Secretary) and Nathalia Gonzalez (Treasurer) for unanimously firing her as VOLUNTEER Executive Director and, thus, depriving this community of an incredibly caring and passionate leader.

  9. potaxpater

    america is a great place for illegal immigrants. they have there own center for welfare. they want to throw the leader out because they like someone else better. but they yell and scream when us americans want to throw them out of the country. only in america the american taxpayer always loses and pays

  10. potaxpayer

    the illegals don’t like pena because he wants them to pay for some services so the place stay open. he probably wants them to fill out welfare applications honestly too. making illegals pay in america is not the american way.[…] pena has my vote and i live in s.norwalk.

    This comment has been edited for offensive racism.

  11. Bill

    For my friends who don’t have time to click links:

    Ms. Forero’s shocking allegations include the following:
    1. In 2013, Ms. Forero discovered $25,000 missing from SoNoCC’s account, which was under the care of then-SoNoCC Executive Director Josie Castillo, who is also Warren Pena’s aunt and godmother. Forero insisted that the money be replaced and Ms. Castillo resign, both of which happened.
    2. Luis Miranda, former board Vice Chair, was in charge of renting the center’s multi-purpose room for outside events. Mr. Miranda was paid in cash by renters for providing “Security” at the events and for any extended time. To Ms. Forero’s knowledge, none of the cash was ever recorded, deposited, or used for the benefit of SoNoCC.
    3. Ms. Forero reviewed SoNoCC’s approved application for a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant and suspected that it “may be laden with potentially fraudulent misrepresentation.”
    4. In November 2013, Mr. Pena used a SoNoCC debit card to order printed materials and pizza for a “Get Out the Vote” campaign, and paid telephone canvassers with another $1,600 in SoNoCC funds, without Board authorization. Ms. Forero believes these actions may have been a conflict of interest and also may have jeopardized SoNoCC’s status as a 501c3 organization. I believe Ms. Forero’s concerns are related to the fact that there are strict rules limiting political activity by 501c3 organizations.
    5. Mr. Pena spent $1,000 of SoNoCC funds on the SoNoCC Board’s Christmas Dinner. Who was there and what did they eat? As I mentioned above, the SoNoCC Board consisted of just four people before Mr. Pena’s leave of absence. $1,000 is a lot of money for just four people to have dinner.
    6. Mr. Pena spent $1,000 of SoNoCC funds on inviting guests to SoNoCC’s table at the Mayor’s Ball. Who were the guests at SoNoCC’s table?

  12. Ms Ruby McPherson

    Bill all is true, just what Mr. Travis was trying to tell council. But Ms. Forero was not trying to include all in the community, just the latino population. Even when some Blacks tried to get assisting she was very rude. Both SoNCC and upstairs need to be fix and have a diver board and staff. The cap agency that should if it happen she be mindful to re-employ the staff that lives and knows the community, since it was up management that was money crazed.

  13. Bill

    It makes you wonder why anyone would trust Mr. Pena to “invest” their money in his day job.

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