Since Friday, Oct. 26, NEON Board Chairman Mike Berkoff and Acting CEO/President Chiquita Stephenson have been in dialogue with Brett Parmenter program support specialist with the Community Development Institute (CDI) the organization designated by the federal Administration for Children and Families to administer Norwalk Head Start during NEON's 30 day suspension from operating the program by phone and email.
NEON is currently awaiting a response and clarification from CDI on the following issues:
- Timeline for the start and end date of license sharing
- Insurance arrangements
- A draft copy of a memo of UnderstandingBudget
- CDI Program Operation Proposal Hours of OperationOutline of services that CDI is requesting from NEONCT Department of Health waiver
See attached for NEON's response to CT Dept. of Social Services and Head Start/OIG audits.
Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, Inc.
98 South Main St Norwalk, CT 06854
NEON RESPONSE TO
Department of Social Services Quality Assurance
October 22, 2013
Phil McKain and Joseph E. Mann and others met with Commissioner Roderick Bremby of the Department of Social Service’s to present their joint position of NEON/CTE merging the two entities because, CTE was no longer in a position to financially sustain its day to day operations and obligations.
Phil McKain and Joseph E. Mann received support from Commissioner Roderick Bremby of the Department of Social Service’s and, the two CEO/Presidents of CTE and NEON proceeded forward.
There seemed to be a delay with the merger which Commissioner Roderick Bremby on November 18, 2011 wrote and forward a correspondence to Phil McKain, CEO/President of CTE and Joseph E. Mann CEO/President of NEON informing them that the merger needed to move forward as soon as possible.
Although, the Department of Social Services draft audit dated October 7, 2013, accompanied by its cover letter dated October 8, 2013, states that the Department review was to determined NEON‘s financial situation as of June 30, 2013, and any related causes. NEONs position is; why was this type of audit not conducted for CTE and NEON by the Department of Social Services prior to the merger initiated by Phil McKain, CEO/President of CTE and Joseph E. Mann CEO/President of NEON which was then insisted upon by Commissioner Bremby of the Department of Social Services that CTE and NEON move forward with the merger.
The financial position which DSS references in its report should not be a surprise to DSS because, NEON consistently informed DSS of its financial position to the pre-merger and post-merger. NEON requested support and a unified solution with DSS as NEON pressed forward to correct internal systems and deficiencies which DSS was well aware of and, in fact hired and contracted CAFCA and BB&T to monitor and provide technical assistances to both CTE and NEON. Why was this not corrected then? What was the outcome of CAFCA and BB&T monitoring paid for by DSS and how was it applied to CTE and NEON day-to-day operations?
NEON is completing its 2012 audit and at the same time, CTE and NEON accounting systems are being merged. If this was a normal merger this process alone would take 6 to 12 months. However, NEON is successfully facilitating the demands being placed on NEON to correct and respond to deficiencies that are a decade old from 2 merged organizations.
The department of Social Service’s office of Quality Assurance states that NEON requested emergency assistance to meet health insurance and payroll which is accurate but, this was made known to the DSS due to the fact, that NEON prior to the merger had a cash reserve which was depleted to cover CTE’s debt. If DSS would have completed an extensive audit pre-merger as stated by the attorneys, NEON would not have debt due to its ability to pay utilizing its cash reserve.
DSS stated that NEONs financial situation was based on a number of apparent inappropriate decisions made by NEON’s management including not making the necessary decisions to reduce expenses since the start of the transition to merge NEON and CTE began in January 2012. Some of the inappropriate decisions include:
DSS was working with Phil McKain and Joseph E. Mann during this time period they were the management team. What action did DSS take to communicate to the current leaderships their inappropriate action to reduce expenses at this time?
DSS also had contracted with CAFCA and BB&T to provide technical assistance to CTE and NEON management team during this time what happened?
Salaries - DSS informed CTE and NEON that they had to merge. January 1, 2012, NEON took on the responsibility of 43 CTE employees. These 43 employees would represent new employees of NEON and this took place while Phil McKain and Joseph E. Mann were still in leadership. It is our understanding that DSS approved this decision even though the actual merger had not taken place. As of January 1, 2012, NEON took on all of CTE’s expenses including the 43 new employees.
In this report DSS failed to take into consideration that NEON operates 3 bargaining units and increases were given based upon Cola’s and the bargaining union agreement. Also, departments in the bargaining unit were restructured and new pay scales were created.
Between September 12, 2012, and January 1, 2013, NEON hired 24 individuals and they were not new positions (see attached).
CTE employees added on to NEONs payroll pre-merger (see attached).
Union salary scale old and new after negotiations which was facilitated by Patricia Wilson Pheanious who was contracted by DSS and CAFCA
DSS NEON has made numerous requests for emergency assistance
NEON made numerous requests for assistance because, NEON realized that it could maintain with its current contracts but, NEON is having difficulty with maintaining pass debt. NEON’s position was to seek assistance and guidance from DSS instead; NEON has been painted as an organization unable to manage its day-to-day operations. DSS insisted on the merger between CTE & NEON without first doing its due diligence of auditing NEONs financial position and its ability to manage CTEs liabilities that were seen and some unseen.
NEON is transparent and therefore, NEON merely communicated with its funder its financial position in advance.
Checks that did total $800,000.00 are payments due pre-merger and post-merger. Primary balance is attorney fees. Again, NEON is transparent and was merely communicating its financial position.
Patricia Wilson Pheanious informed staff that she was instructed not to cut CTE staff until the merger was official.
DSS The average biweekly salary
Please be advised that, CAFCA and New Opportunities CFO were working with Patricia Wilson Pheanious during this time providing financial technical assistance which was paid by DSS. Considering our research the following occurred:
NEON Child Development overtime increased for NCDP staff. NCDP staff was covering for open teaching positions that NCDP was recruiting for (please see attached).
Union contract agreement became effective.
NEON was still carrying duplicate positions based upon DSS instructing Patricia Wilson Pheanious that she could not terminate CTE staff until the merger was official and complete. (No documentation this is what was shared by Patricia Wilson Pheanious at numerous staff meetings.)
Phil McKain was still being paid and Joseph Mann was on paid leave
DSS insisted that NEON and CTE merge and on January 1, 2012, DSS approved and forwarded over CTE’s contracts to NEON however, DSS had no control over other funding sources that did not transfer contracts on January 1, 2012, however, NEON incurred all CTE expenses, DSS and CAFCA were assisting CTE and NEON. CTE 2011 audits shows CTE revenue and its expenses decreased.
NEON shows an increase in revenue due to DSS CTE contracts going to NEON however; the expense NEON incurred more than doubled.
DSS incurring costs for programs/cost consists in which grants have not been provided us of June 30, 2013
NEON DSS Incurring Cost Response
NEON was and is reviewing all contracts, scopes of services, budgets and contract life as its restructures to determine NEON’s programmatic and fiscal position. During our organization consolidation of NEON and CTE, NEON determined both organizations had deficiencies that were never addressed. Current NEON management is addressing years of deficiencies that have gone uncorrected although DSS provided CAFCA with a contract to monitor and provide technical assistance to NEON and CTE.
When DSS came in for their audit we had compiled the dates to start the process of eliminating unfunded programs and service’s however, it seems as though DSS was looking to catch NEON doing something wrong opposed to respecting the fact that the current NEON management team was only correcting past deficiencies that were never addressed by past management, DSS, CAFCA or BB&T. (Please see the attached). Why did DSS wait until the end of Patricia Wilson Pheanious contract with NEON to send in the DSS Quality Assurance Department? Why were they not present during the process if the focus was to merge these two organizations to ensure that services to the communities served were not interrupted?
DSS NEON’s Plan to Balance the Budget Deficit with Donations and Contributions Totaling Approximately $2,000,000 was not Reasonable
NEONS DSS Plan to Balance Response
This plan was and is reasonable however, with the false information communicated by DSS to the public as well as unflattering correspondence and accusatory audits. It has made our job harder, however not impossible. If DSS is helping NEON then the statements will need to cease and a real plan will be put in place to assist the work that the current management team is doing to correct decades of deficiency that were actually monitored by DSS and CAFCA.
NEON understands its financial position due to the merger that DSS insisted take place. NEON is working diligently to accomplish its mission. NEON’s question remains, what steps is DSS willing to take to assist NEON to restructure and regroup its financial positions
The objective was to review the financial situation of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, Inc. (NEON) as of June 30, 2013. In addition, the review will attempt to determine the cause of the current financial position.
NEON’s Objective Response
The Department of Social Service’s should have used this approach prior to insisting that NEON and CTE merge. DSS should have first made sure that all of the mismanaged and misallocated funds were addressed by DSS with the past leadership of NEON and CTE and that the deficiencies that are just about a decade old were in fact monitored and corrected by DSS and CAFCA.
DSS pays CAFCA to facilitate Community Action Agency services as follows: advocacy, monitoring and technical assistance.
The cause of NEON’s current financial situation is due to DSS not properly conducting and/or evaluating CTE/NEON from a fiscal and programmatic prospective to ensure that tax payer’s dollars was being utilized appropriately. The current NEON management team cannot and will not be used as a distraction or escape goat for DSS failure to monitor decades of deficiencies continues repayments to CTE for mismanaged use of funds and, DSS failure to complete an intensive financial audit pre-merger to determine if NEON had the capacity to operate successfully post-merger. NEON loss funding from the City of Norwalk from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 totaling $2.6 million dollars and, NEON received inadequate technical assistance from DSS’s subcontract CAFCA.
The scope of the review was limited to analyzing the financial records provided to us by NEON. The review was not performed to issue an opinion on the financial information provided.
NEON’s Scope Response
NEON provided the financial information that was specifically requested by the DSS Quality Assurance Department, nothing more, nothing less.
NEON is in disagreement with the last statement by DSS Quality Assurance Department about this “review was not performed to issue an opinion on the financial information provided” not only did DSS Quality Assurance form an opinion, it seems that the intent was to crucify current NEON staff for DSS’s failure to correct past leadership mismanagement of funds, correct deficiencies that are just about a decade old and hold their subcontractor responsible for failure to monitor and effectively report back to DSS the findings. (Who was responsible for monitoring the QIP and/or corrective action?)
The Following information provided by NEON was mainly used to perform our review
Balance Sheet prepared from NEON’s accounting system as of January 1, 2012, October 31, 2012 and June 30, 2013
Bi-weekly payroll registers for dates June 29, 2012 through June 28, 2013
Monthly Bank Statements for the months January 2012 to June 30, 2013
General ledger from June 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013
Income statement for June 2013 and July 2013 (This report shows expenses and revenues charged by cost center).
NEON’s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011 issued January 25, 2013.
CTE’s statements or the fiscal year ended September 30, 2011 issued July 10, 2012 and the period from October 1, 2011 to September 28, 2012 on February 22, 2013. A list of new hires and terminations since January 2012 (the list of terminations includes voluntary resignations and durational/temporary positions).
NEON’s Methodology Response
In 2011 Commissioner Bremby urged NEON and CTE to move forward with the merger without a pre-merger assessment of NEON financial ability to actually facilitate the operations of NEON and CTE liabilities. The merger was supposed to happen by December 31, 2011, but, it did not.
On January 1, 2012, NEON takes responsibility for all 43 CTE employees, benefits as well as the vacation payout liability of CTE employees, DSS gives NEON all of CTE contracts however CTE remains in full control of all other contracts yet, NEON is responsible for CTE expenses, March 9, 2012 DSS and CAFCA announce that they are contracting with Patricia Wilson Pheanious to come in for 6 month to carryout DSS and CAFCA’s wishes (where is the contract, what were the terms and outcomes that were to be meet through DSS contract with Mrs. Pheanious?) Only DSS and CAFCA know. During this time period Phil McKain and Joseph Mann were still employed by NEON. What is DSS response or position on this?
NEON was trying to communicate with DSS. Why did DSS not just sit at a table with NEON to go over the past while planning for the future?
We reviewed the information provided and performed analytical procedures to reach our results. A limited review of a sample of expenditure transactions for appropriateness was also made.
Our scope was limited as a result of NEON not providing certain information that we believe could influence the causes of its financial condition identified in this report. However, we do not believe that not having this information would materially affect the conclusions reached in the report. The significant documentation that was not provided or was provided untimely to review prior to issuing this report was as follows:
Copies of Mortgages, leases and large contracts (example HHD contract with South Norwalk Community Center), which would be used to determine if Note Payables are accurately reflected in the balance sheet provided.
Invoice sent to City of Norwalk for Storm Sandy Repayment, which would be used to determine if there is a potential receivable from the City of Norwalk.
Detailed allocations worksheets that would provide the method for charging costs to centers.
General Ledgers related to CTE prior to the merger became effective September 29, 2012.
Details to the specific transactions charged as Transition Dollars.”
NEON’s DSS Response
DSS and CAFCA failed to monitor CTE financial mismanagement, the merger and deficiencies so, instead on focusing on corrective action with new management leadership, DSS from this report is intentional trying to put forth a distraction rather than admit to the fact that it has refunded CTE on several occasion to pay the same debt such as:
Energy payments for clients approved for energy
IDA funding which was not used by CTE to match client saving accounts which NEON not only negotiated and to paid ($100,000.00 as a down payment and continues to pay $2,500.00 per month not including the match when clients achieve completion of the program.)
As drafted this document clearly represents from NEON’s prospective, DSS Quality Assurance position to move the focus off of the tax payers dollars that have been mismanage for decades and intentionally mislead the public using current management as the bait.
As for the bullets above NEON went through a merger and is now merging accounting systems, records and contracts. A normal merger takes 6 to 12 months, ask any CPA.
Why is NEON being faulted for information that DSS should have had prior to funding CTE?
NEON was and, continues to remain focused on moving the agency forward and righting the wrong so its community and clients will not have to suffer for the negligence of others. NEON provides critical service’s and resources to the most needy let’s face the fact that many can be blamed for how we arrived here but, how many will put their pride aside to focus on the here and, now, children and families.
All the questions presented to DSS can be answered as we reconstruct the organizations to properly tell the story of two Community Action Agencies.
DSS Review Performed
Current Financial Position as of June 30, 2013
NEON’s Review Performed Response
NEON did not receive funding from the City of Norwalk for two years totaling $2.6 million. NEON had vendor debt from the merger.
DSS NEON’s Liability
Increased from January 1, 2012 to October 1, 2012
NEON Liability Response
During this time period DSS is failing to recall that NEON was paying the following:
Phil McKain, CEO/President of CTE now employed by NEON as of January 1, 2012
Joseph E. Mann, CEO/President of NEON (then paid leave)
Patricia Wilson Pheanious Interim CEO/President (Start time March 9, 2012)
These individuals were being paid at the same time.
Felix, CTE CFO
Chip, NEON CFO (also payment was made to Chip as a consultant for 3 months)
Norma Brown, NEON/CTE CFO (salary was $130,000.00 which was set by CAFCA, DSS and Pat, the job description was created by CAFCA, DSS and Pat, the recruitment was conducted by CAFCA, DSS and Pat)
Human Resource Director
Lee CTE, HR Director
Gail NEON, HR Director
The organization had 2 of everyone and Patricia Wilson Pheanious shared that the termination could not take place until the actual merger occurred. It was not until a Monday morning conference call when Pat was questioned about Phil and others that she begin to eliminate jobs. Why did DSS not monitor this activity then?
NEON also took on all 43 of CTE employees, benefits, pensions, and vacation payouts along with a host of additional expenses (please see attached).
3 Union contracts were negotiated (please see attached).
Overtime for NEON Child Development Program for vacancies that was hard to fill due to the new credential criteria.
DSS Due to Funding Source
$406,000.00 payable to the federal government
$227,761.00 payable to DSS
$112,000.00 was transferred from CTE liabilities
$352,000.00 in journal entries
NEON Due to Funding Source Response
NEON at this time does owe this amount however, we filed an appeal and we are currently in mediation.
We are in the process of making a request to the federal government for forgiveness.
Again, if DSS would have completed an in depth fiscal feasibility study it would have concluded that NEON was not financially in a position to facilitate CTE’s debt.
We are not in agreement with the liability of $4,047,740 as we are still merging CTE and NEON books to complete NEON’s 2012 audit and a significant amount of vendors have been paid and staffing decreased.
DSS without Some Major Reorganizational Changes
NEON’s without Some Major Reorganizational Changes
It was DSS who agreed to a merger with CTE Phil McKain and NEON Joseph E. Mann.
It was Commissioner Bremby that requested CTE and NEON move forward with the merger.
It was CAFCA and BB&T that gave monitoring and technical assistance at the direction of DSS.
It was DSS who employed Patricia Wilson Pheanious.
It was CAFCA and DSS and Patricia Wilson Pheanious that hired NEON’s CFO for this complex task that she was not able to do and 5+ months for productive restructuring of the finance department to create internal controls was lost. The CFO was hired not by the old NEON Board but, CAFCA, DSS and Patricia Pheanious. Where were the monitors then?
Patricia Wilson Pheanious changed job titles to fit the responsibilities of the employees and their expanded areas of roles and responsibilities to be comparable to the salary of the new CFO set by CAFCA, DSS and Patricia Wilson Pheanious.
Mrs. Pheanious hired an Interim Compliance Officer, a Chief Workforce & Community Development Officer, Process Mapping IT party.
Within the NEON Child Development Program Patricia Wilson Pheanious, Interim CEO/President determined that after terminating the NEON Child Development Director that it would be better at that time to have two co-directors and then two center directors.
NEON Child Development Program increased due to overtime.
There were three union contracts negotiated (please see the attached).
NEON is restructuring and cleaning deficiencies that have gone decades untouched. NEON identified unfunded programs and was in the process of eliminating around the same time DSS entered to start this audit (please see the attached).
Questionable Expenses: Have these questionable expenses been identified.
DSS Staffing Increases
NEON Staffing Increase Response
DSS was asked to sit down and have a face to face with NEON to focus on the facts only.
January 1, 2012, 43 CTE employees became NEON employees.
Union Contract Negotiation (Please see attached) DOC, Child Development, Facilities
Union Contract Cola Increases (AIC)
NEON Child Development (Over-time for unfilled teaching positions)
Triplication of CEO/Presidents
Duplication of CFO’s
Duplication of Human Resource Directors
Duplication of Facilities Directors
Duplication of Workforce Development Directors
What staff should be changed? DSS, CAFCA were facilitating with Patricia Wilson Pheanious who informed DSS and CAFCA of the financial pitfalls and major concerns during her tenure at NEON.
DSS Compensation Increases
The average bi-weekly expenditures.
NEON Compensation Increases
DSS seems to have over looked the fact that the new CFO that was hired for NEON was with the assistance of CAFCA, DSS and Patricia Wilson Pheanious.
Norma Brown was hired at $130,000.00 and 30 days of paid time off. The salary was set by DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious; we were informed that since there was a merger in process the salary needed to comparable. NEON’s old Board of Directors nor NEON staff set the new salary of the CFO. This was done by DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious.
The new positions and responsibilities on an interim basis were made comparable to the CFO hired by DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious.
People were terminated or they left voluntarily and job functions were consolidated.
DSS Negative Fund Balances
Income Statement report
NEON DSS Negative Fund Balance
NEON provided this information to DSS and was seeking assistance as it was dealing with merger debt and the loss of the funding from the City of Norwalk for the past 2 years totaling $2.6 million.
NEON was eliminating these programs and cost center when DSS came to do this audit (please see attached).
NEON was and is restructuring, reorganizing and consolidating programs and services at this time. Why is DSS not providing hands on support oppose to scrutinizing an agency that is correcting deficiencies that are decades old and should have been corrected prior to now?
DSS Donations and Contributions
NEON DSS Donations and Contributions Response
NEON has wasted significant time and resources defending the agency from malicious statements, misleading audits and claims by individuals that are slander.
Instead of NEON receiving support for its integrity, passion, dedication and commitment to provide services to the communities within the region it serves, it was defamed by organizations that failed to reveal the entire truth about the merger, decades of deficiencies, the process, their full involvement and the mistakes made along the way.
NEON never pointed a finger to expose any wrong doing however; NEON has remained steadfast on fixing deficiencies that were just about a decade old. The time has come for NEON to speak loud and clear as it works diligently to keep the organization’s mission and the clients served first.
DSS failed to complete many important tasks but, the largest failure is the position taken by some DSS departments and CAFCA to aggressively pursue NEON and its management team for actions that were clearly the responsibility of DSS and CAFCA.
NEON remains focused and committed to seeking a relationship with DSS that moves the programs and service’s that NEON provides forward.
NEON has leveraged outside funds and although, it is a bit behind due to staff being pulled for audits. NEON continues to stay focused on our ability to fundraise in spite of the negative leaked publicity and false accusations that current management is the cause of the actions being taken. When will DSS hold itself and subcontractors like CAFCA and past management responsible, no more reflectors, together lets deal with the facts as they are.
DSS Transition Dollars
Specific to CTE
NEON DSS Transition Dollars
The transition dollars were specific to paying for debt incurred by CTE a second time and, a merger that was to conclude by December 31, 2011, but, in fact, did not conclude until September 29, 2012.
NEON incurred expenses and as it shared this information with DSS there was no support however more interrogation. (It is understood that DSS paid CAFCA to provide technical assistance and monitoring to NEON) what was wrong is that no one asked NEON if their service was useful.
DSS and CAFCA hired Patricia Wilson Pheanious on March 9, 2012, therefore, after the 90 days expired from the original merger. DSS reengaged with CTE/NEON by entering into an agreement with Patricia Wilson Pheanious. What were the deliverables?
CTE contracts added to NEON
NEON DSS CSBG/HSI Response
DSS called for CTE and NEON to merge. DSS transferred CTE’s contracts to NEON however; DSS did not have the power to transfer DMHAS, HUD, and City of Stamford etc... Therefore, NEON did not have the resource required to effectively facilitate the fiscal aspects of the merger because each funder had and has a process that is required to be followed prior too merger. This should have been considered prior to DSS telling NEON and CTE to proceed with the merger.
DSS Grant funding
NEON DSS Grant Funding Response
NEON was awarded transitional funding for CTE debt which included; 90 days for staff to consolidate.
Because the merger did not occur on December 31, 2011 and, actually merger occurred on September 29, 2012, NEON incurred additional CTE expenses.
NEON respectfully utilized DSS grant funds awarded to pay for programs and service’s going forward not unforeseen debt. It is evident that CTE benefited from the merger however, NEON received no financial consideration outside of the grant award which already has a specific designation.
NEON will provide additional information to state its position of needing additional funding for merger debt.
DSS City of Norwalk
DSS does not expect and funding from Norwalk (how did DSS come up with this conclusion? did DSS speak with Mayor Moccia)?
NEON DSS City of Norwalk Response
NEON never shared with DSS that it was expecting funding from the City of Norwalk. NEON has stated that many people are having critical conversation about NEON but, NEON is not invited to participate in the conversation. (Why is this?)
NEON is more than ready to provide accurate information. Why are there so many side bar conversation that do not include NEON?
States that Chiquita Stephenson hired family members.
NEON DSS Nepotism Response
Shondell Thomas was employed by Catholic Charities Room to Grow as a Head Teacher. NEON was doing a recruitment process and she applied and was hired.
Dianne Thomas was a volunteer and later contracted to facilitate the store during Hurricane Sandy.
Chaquanzha Stephenson was hired in 2010 as a college intern along with several other NEON employees’ children who are and were attending college. (it’s odd that DSS would misrepresent Chaquanzha’s actual hire date). Was this intentional? All college interns return every break and summer. NEON’s hope was to draw our community college graduates back to the community after graduation instead of losing them to neighboring states. (My take is that the state has afforded an education for these students which are a significant investment now the return would be students returning back to the community with a career.)
Alvin Rosa married to my aunt and lives across the street from NEON applied for a job and was hired.
NEON has a nepotism policy and none of the individuals listed report to me this is also true for Gail Meaney’s niece and several other families employed by NEON.
DSS stated that it was not giving an opinion but all throughout this audit is information that misrepresents NEON, NEON Management Team and Chiquita Stephenson. As DSS is trying to continue redirecting the focus of the facts before us by focusing on current management. How will DSS deal with the following?
DSS Quality Assurance Failed to complete a pre-merger audit to determine NEON feasibility and viability
DSS Failed to follow up on the CTE and NEON deficiencies for the past decade
DSS paid CTE debt not once but twice
DSS failed to hold CTE past administration liable for the mismanaged funds
DSS failed to hold NEON past administration liable for mismanaged funds
DSS failed to hold CAFCA responsible for not monitoring CTE
DSS failed to hold CAFCA responsible for not monitoring NEON
DSS Failed to hold CAFCA responsible for poor technical assistance CTE
DSS failed to hold CAFCA responsible for poor technical assistance to NEON
DSS failed to re-evaluate its contractual relationship with CAFCA. The Director of CAFCA reports to the CEO/Presidents of Community Action Agency’s yet, they are the same entity (CAFCA) that monitors, provides technical assistance and advocacy to its bosses however although CAFCA reports all is clear deficiencies go untouched until OIG arrives.
OIG has given a report for CTE to repay funds (What is and has been DSS focus?)
OIG has requested that NEON repay funds in two areas (What is and has been DSS focus?)
The Management Team and Chiquita Stephenson that DSS Quality Assurance has chosen to slander falsely is the same Management Team and CEO/President correcting deficiencies, implementing internal controls and integrating services that DSS and CAFCA failed to properly oversee.
As Much as DSS Quality Assurance has tried to refocus this conversation about NEON Management Team and Chiquita Stephenson, the fact of the matter is, it has been the same DSS staff in position for the past decade with the exception of Commissioner Bremby and a few of the Commissioners dedicated staff that have remained focused with NEON staff on the quality and direct service delivery.
NEON Staff will remain focused and is committed to its clients, community and grantors at all times. We are asking DSS for the same at this time. It’s done let’s move forward.
DSS Haviland Street Store
Haviland may outweigh the benefits
NEON DSS Haviland Street Store Response
All documentation was provided to DSS. The only document that DSS does not have is the submission to the City of Norwalk (that has not happened yet).
Every non-for-profit within this community sends their clients and families to the Haviland boutique. We follow the Person-To-Person model.
Our families go monthly because they cannot afford to pay for clothing.
When entering the boutique there is an intake process which we have all the data for the clients and families that utilize the service these intakes are supportive for HHD/HSI/CSBG because they are referred and a need is met.
Mrs. Thomas picks up donations, preps the donations, stocks the donations, and completes a full intake with every client and or family.
NEON received a grant award of $10,000.00 to train young men customer service skills through book work to receive a state certification and then hands on at the boutique with Ms. Thomas; Debra Williams who is the CEO of Hergame2 will also be providing training.
The outcome will be the Food Bank and clothing barn in our Stamford location.
To say that a service outweighs the benefit is only true when you do not know or understand the community need.
Hopefully, with no more misleading information DSS will continue to focus on NEON successes as we continue to correct pass deficiencies, fundraising, community service an adhering to the community’s needs.
NEON is transparent and has nothing to hide and we are not focused on pointing fingers just developing strategies that empower our community to eliminate poverty.
DSS Other Financial Issues noted
NEON DSS Other Financial Issues noted
NEON has just gone through a merger. Fact finding is being done, financial systems are being merged, files are being reviewed and merged, accounting practices are being consolidated and let’s not forget the deficiencies that are being reviewed closely to correct, document, implement and evaluate. This Management Team and Staff are working around the clock correcting deficiencies that it did not create. Meanwhile, we are being audited oppose to having assistance offered to help us move forward.
A normal merger takes 6 to 12 months. DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious hired a CFO that was not equipped to facilitate the job description. Five months were lost due to the professional recruited and selected by DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious. Our Auditor, CPA and Attorney will speak to DSS, CAFACA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious choice for CFO of NEON.
After merging of the financials we will be on schedule to reconcile monthly.
DSS Credit Card Charges
NEON Credit Card Charges Response
Naier Inc. - Membership for Supplies
Hertz Rental Car Conference in Washington DC
Toys R Us - NEON Christmas Party Unrestricted Funds Used
PC Richards & Son - NEON Christmas Party Unrestricted Funds Used
Shoprite - NEON Christmas Party Unrestricted Funds Used
Late payment NEON utilized all of it cash reserve.
DSS Subsequent Events
NEON DSS Subsequent Events
NEON informed DSS of the financial position after realizing that DSS did not do a financial feasibility study to determine NEONs ability to sustain after merger with CTE.
NEON is making significant cuts. DSS arrived during the process. One cannot make cuts in 24 hours without reviewing the contracts, scopes of services, consulting with the bargaining unit and revising budgets.
NEON’s team is working daily to facility best practices as we reorganize.
NEON has created actual budgets and monthly cash flow statements which is a first for NEON.
We disclose a projected loss due to no funding from the City of Norwalk and merger debt.
NEON DSS Conclusion
NEON has restructured many of its vendor payments from 30 to 60 days and in some case 60 to 90 days.
We have eliminated some vendors from the vendor list to reduce the amount of future liabilities. NEON is creating and authorized vendor list.
We have a funding sheet which keeps NEON up to date on funds coming into the organization in a timely manner.
DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious, Phil McKain and Joseph E. Mann were management for a great part of this. Joseph Mann left NEON on paid leave on March 8, 2012, Phil McKain retired in 2012 and continue to be paid at full salary for six months after, Pat left September 8, 2013.
DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious hired the new CFO for NEON.
DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious set the pay scale for the new NEON CFO. That salary was set at $130,000.00
Commissioner Bremby requested that the merger proceed, NEON took on 43 CTE employees, 3 Union Contracts were negotiated, Cola’s were given, NEON Child Development overtime, Patricia Wilson Pheanious hired Rina Bakalar, Chief Workforce & Community Development Officer $100,000.00, David Washington, Interim Compliance Officer $65,000.00, Jones Logic, Process Mapping $24,000.00, Juanita Ball was increase she was now the Director for Stamford and Norwalk Energy $80,000.00, Larry Langhorn became responsible for Viewpoint, AIC, DOC, TLP $90,000.00, Mary Mann, CPO $100,000.00, Chiquita Stephenson COS/COO $135,000.00, Danielle Watson Yates CFO/DOC $90,000.00, Patricia Wilson Pheanious CEO/President $140,000.00
Job functions were being consolidated
We were told that we needed to attend a conference at CAFCA’s request in DC. Again, all were aware of NEON’s position however; we were continually instructed on what was needed with no assistance. We often wonder if DSS intent was to close the organization by watching it bleed slowly.
NEON is restructuring and clearing deficiencies in spite of some of the obviousness of inappropriate actions taken on NEON and the misrepresentation of its management team.
Sell property, new management
NEON DSS Recommendation Response
DSS calls it a recommendations NEON prefers to call it an opinion and with that expressed NEON is looking at every opportunity to consolidate staffing, eliminate overhead duplication. Sell of property, as well as targeted fundraising.
NEON is happy with the current management structure. DSS and CAFCA hired Patricia Wilson Pheanious. DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson hired NEONs last CFO at $130,000.00. What we need is support as we properly clean the deficiencies to deliver quality programs and services. DSS continues to speak to large salaries when DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious set the salary of the NEON CFO which was $130,000.00 is DSS asking NEON to discriminate by choosing who gets an increase based upon the job role and responsibility. NEON did not set the pay scale the pay scale was set by DSS, CAFCA and Patricia Wilson Pheanious. NEON employee’s jobs were consolidated and their roles enhanced. All of the employees were employees of NEON from 7 to 20+ years. What is the pay scale of other community action agencies? What are comparable salaries in this area?
We are auditing our expenses line by line.
We have a reporting system which is being utilized. NEON has never balanced its budget using unreasonable fund raising expectations. NEON’s fundraising activity does not appear in NEON’s cash flow until it is an actual number.
NEON is working on this action plan daily.
This concludes NEON RESPONSE
Respectfully Submitted By,
NEON Board of Director’s Chairmen