(Hour (Norwalk, CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 02--NORWALK -- The firing of Patrick Ferrandino and his wife as head staff at South Norwalk Community Center, Inc., (SoNoCC) may have been the final salvos in an internal battle over the direction of the anti-poverty agency that historically has served the local Latino community.
The battle was evidenced last fall by the dismissal of several board members and last month by the termination of Ferrandino and Marina Forero-Ferrandino, who served as deputy director and executive director, respectively.
Travis L. Simms, a city councilman who was among those removed from the SoNoCC board of directors last fall, said there are no winners in the battle.
"(The Ferrandinos) were part of the problem that (board Chairman Warren Pena) brought in," Simms said Tuesday. "I think they've all been wrongdoing and I think that what's happening now is that they're all kind of against each other."
On Monday evening, SoNoCC board members dismissed Ferrandino as interim executive director -- weeks after they fired his wife as executive director.
Parents and children rallied outside the community center at 98 South Main St. and urged the board to reinstate Forero-Ferrandino and programs, such as music classes for children, which she oversaw.
Pena, meanwhile, has stepped aside as board chairman until after the Aug. 12 primary election in which he is candidate. Pena is running against fellow Democrat Bruce V. Morris for the 140th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
Edwin Camacho, Norwalk Democratic Town Committee chairman and previously SoNoCC board vice chairman, is now acting board chairman.
He released the packet from Monday evening's board meeting. It included documents outlining the disagreements between Pena and the Ferrandinos (visit www.thehour.com for story with the documents).
The Ferrandinos view themselves as whistleblowers. In a letter to the board dated June 9, they laid out their allegations against Pena.
The Ferrandinos alleged, among other things, that Pena fraudulently applied for federal blocks grants, used SoNoCC resources for a get-out-the-vote campaign, and invited family members to use the community center.
"I urge our Board of Directors to take the necessary steps to cleanse SoNoCC of its tarnished past and to surge forward by providing the necessary support to our management team so that, together, we may all be proud (but humble) in carrying on the important work we have begun," the Ferrandinos wrote.
Pena, in a letter to the board dated June 30, rebutted all allegations raised by the Ferrandinos and accused them of ignoring the organization's board of directors "to impose their will against our approved policies."
According to Pena, the Ferrandinos exhibited a conflict of interest by attempting to contract SoNoCC programs and services to Impact Others, a non-profit organization that they operate.
"To conclude, I believe it is in Mr. Ferrandino's best interest to separate from SoNoCC," Pena wrote. I also believe in order for the center to thrive that we must move forward in a different direction under new leadership."
On Wednesday, two people staffed the SoNoCC offices and referred questions to the SoNoCC board.
"We're in the process of appointing someone as interim executive director and we hope to have someone in place before the end of the week," Camacho said Tuesday. "We hope to provide as many of the services as possible."
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