NORWALK, Conn. – The Rev. Tommie Jackson has been named interim CEO for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now Inc. while acting CEO Chiquita Stevenson is on a leave of absence, officials said.
Jackson, pastor of Stamford’s Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, was appointed by NEON’s Board of Directors at a special session Thursday night to address the anti-poverty agency’s financial standing. Stevenson agreed to take an unpaid leave of absence earlier this week.
"Rev. Jackson brings a strong set of skills to his new position at NEON, including hands-on experience in fiscal management, developing and executing best practices for organizational sustainability and improvement, program/organizational capacity building, leadership development, team building and fundraising,” NEON board Chairman Michael Berkoff said Thursday.
In addition to his work at Faith Tabernacle, Jackson has a background in community work. He is currently executive director of the Stamford Redevelopment Commission. He was also executive director of the Economic Redevelopment Authority in Chester, Pa., from 1993-1996 and the Maryland Criminal Justice Coordinating Council from 1982-1987.
Jackson will be tasked with helping to improve the agency’s ongoing financial problems. The Connecticut Department of Social Services declared NEON an “agency in crisis” last month due to the financial issues. The state’s actions included ordering an audit of NEON’s finances and finding other agencies that might take over some of the state grants administered by NEON. Among others, NEON runs the Head Start preschool program at two sites in Norwalk.
“The Department of Social Services continues to provide technical assistance and resources to assist NEON in overcoming its serious fiscal and operational problems,” Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby said in a statement at the time. “However, it has become increasingly clear that this is an organization in severe crisis, and the time has come to take stronger action.”
About a week after the state’s announcement the federal government withdrew control of Norwalk’s Head Start program from NEON, citing the agency’s outstanding debts to vendors. Earlier this week employees also claimed that their paychecks were being returned for insufficient funds.
“The entire NEON Board of Directors is working closely with local and state officials to reorganize and restructure the agency so that it can once again fulfill its important mission to provide needed programs and services to the vulnerable population residing in the eight cities and towns in lower Fairfield County," Berkoff said.
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