‘Volunteer’ Jackson achieved paid NEON employee status

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Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) transitional CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson leads the dying agency in November. (File photo)


This story was updated June 15, 3:29 p.m., with more information about when payments were made.

NORWALK, Conn. – Among the NEON employees who were brought up to date on their paychecks before the agency threw in the towel was its last CEO and president, the Rev. Tommie Jackson.

Jackson, who was brought in to lead Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now in November as its “transitional” CEO and president, was initially working as a volunteer. He said at the time he would not take any salary until all the employees who were behind on pay were “made whole.”

In December, the NEON Board of Directors voted to pay Jackson $128,000 a year if the struggling NEON came up with came up with the funds, and if all the employees were brought up to date, NEON board Chairman Mike Berkoff said at the time. That would be less than the reported $160,000 allotted previously for the position, and less than the $135,000 former interim NEON chief Chiquita Stephenson recently said she was accepting before being placed on unpaid leave.

The agency filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Tuesday. Jackson got his money, Berkoff said in a Friday email:

“Reverend Jackson was paid $67,166.00 or thereabouts, roughly in the area of $70,000 for working from November 2013 through June 6, 2014.

“His work continues without pay through completion of the bankruptcy action.

“The Board voted and agreed in December 2013 to pay him $124,000 annually including benefits for health insurance and pension contributions. None of the benefits were paid to him.

“The personnel files are secured and will be in position of the receiver.”

Berkoff did not say when Jackson was paid, other than, “When payroll was being paid.” In December, Berkoff said Jackson had been working 60 to 70 hours a week.

Sunday, Berkoff emailed NoN to say that all employees were brought up to date on their pay in February, and the Jackson began getting paid, retroactively, in late March.

Jackson is involved in an attempt to form a new Community Action Agency as part of a group that is forming a structure so it can apply for the role when the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) puts out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

As part of decertifying NEON, DSS agreed to provide NEON $109,000, primarily to pay its staff through their last day on the job, according to the decertification agreement signed by Jackson on April 4.

The decertification was voluntary. If it had been involuntary it could taken up to 18 months, state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) said in April. 



16 responses to “‘Volunteer’ Jackson achieved paid NEON employee status”

  1. The Norwalker

    This man is getting paid a full salary for literally ignoring the communiques from State Funding sources and the eventual loss of the funding from those State Funding Agencies.

    Under this man’s watch individual State Funded Programs did not have funds to provide for client while on paper these programs should have had funds available. This kind of job performance is not something that merits 100% of a salary!

    What about people who use to work in those lost NEON State Funded Programs who are still looking for work? What is fair for them?

  2. Things that makes u go hmmmm

    So this man was got half his salary by June but said he was there to volunteer. Something smells fishy

  3. Joanne Romano

    This is ludicrous.. How can one say they are volunteering through the bankruptcy proceedings? Are you kidding me now? An agency agrees to pay $124,000 salary to a director. To date he has been paid approx. $70 000. And has worked just short of 6 months and that which he was hired to run is now banckrupt? Just not getting it!!!

  4. John Hamlin

    NEON was not an agency it was the social service equivalent of a criminal enterprise. And now those who ran it want government support for a new enterprise — are we that stupid to support it? I think not. Is our government that stupid? We shall see.

  5. piberman

    So we have 3 successive NEON Directors paid hefty 6 figure salaries to “manage” an anti-poverty agency and neither the community nor City officials nor our Legislators complain. And the Council appoints the former Chairman of this egregiously managed agency to the BET overseeing City finances. No wonder City residents and outsiders remain puzzled (to be polite) at the questionable competence of our elected officials. Looks like ensuring a well managed anti-poverty agency is just beyond the ability of City officials and community leaders. Lets give our elected officials another raise.

  6. EveT

    This is the same Rev. Jackson who is trying to start a new agency while the ink isn’t yet dry on NEON’s bankruptcy papers. Disgusting.

  7. Casey Smith

    FOR REAL??? Is this for real? I wanna know how I can cash in on this sweet deal, for sure!

    1. Mark Chapman


      This comment was updated June 15, 3:23 p.m., with additional information.

      Yes, it is. He was promised a salary and benes when he was hired, when the board still hoped he could turn it around and save NEON. Jackson promised not to take any money until all employees were paid up, and said it would happen by December. When he set a date for that, he said they would all be made whole by Dec. 23. They weren’t. They were all paid by sometime in February, and, according to Board of Directors Chairman Mike Berkoff, Jackson was paid retroactively starting in late March.

  8. Paul

    I don’t understand why there aren’t criminal charges pressed against the past and present directors. All were hired todo a job which they obviously did not do. What a joke. Harry, Harry, Harry???? You out there?? What bout mr duff?? I guess no camera no care. Shameful.

    1. Mark Chapman


      An investigation by the State’s Attorney has been requested by the Rev. Lindsay Curtis, one of the people putting together a group that would like to replace NEON. Mayor Harry Rilling said, “I have spoken with an agent of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office.” See our story.

  9. Casey Smith

    Not too shabby a job, if you can get it. Mark, do you know if all the parents who paid for their children to go to summer camp got their money back?

    1. Mark Chapman


      We were told they did. We had some parents confirm. No one has come forward to say the did not.

    2. @Casey Smith We were told that they were being given refunds. I am sure I would have heard about it if they weren’t. I believe they were first in line for the camp being run by the Carver Center.

  10. Dennis DiManis

    Also, as a Man Of The Cloth, he pays no taxes on this income, right?

    1. Mark Chapman


      That’s one for any lawyers or accountants out there, but I believe that any tax benefit that goes with the religious activity does not apply to other things, like CEO of NEON. Also I do know that, while a 501(c)3 has tax advantages, paid employees do have to pay income tax, the same as working at a for-profit company. My guess is his NEON income was fully taxable.


    HMmmN….Let me THINK……!!! OH! Yeah….This rev got paid. And yet…thE THREE WORKERS from the energy department DID NOT get paid for the last two weeks they worked, REV Jackson, what do you have to say about that?

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