(Hour (Norwalk, CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 01--NORWALK -- Following a closed-door meeting Monday evening, the South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) board of directors fired interim Executive Director Patrick Ferrandino, and Warren A. Pena stepped aside as board chairman.
"The board collectively after about three months has decided to go in a different direction from Pat and Marina (Ferrandino). We've terminated both of their volunteer services at the center," Pena, a former councilman, said afterward. "Secondly, I took a leave of absence so I can focus on my campaign for state representative."
Pena is running against endorsed incumbent Bruce V. Morris in a Democratic primary for the 140th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
SoNoCC board member Edwin Camacho, also Norwalk Democratic Town Committee chairman, was appointed acting board chairman.
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Last month, SoNoCC board members under Pena terminated Marina Forero-Ferrandino as executive director and appointed her husband, Patrick Ferrandino, as interim executive director of the community center. The center, which traditionally has served the Latino community, has seen a resurgence since Pena was appointed board chairman two years ago.
In a letter dated June 30, Pena wrote, "It is my belief that Patrick and Marina conspired to fully ignore the Board of Directors of SoNoCC and to impose their will against our approved policies."
Earlier Monday evening, before the board meeting, Latino families demonstrated outside the SoNoCC headquarters at 98 South Main St. and demanded the reinstatement of Forero-Ferrandino as executive director. They asked that Pena be fired.
"We want Marina back! We Want Marina back!" chanted the parents and children as Forero-Ferrandino arrived at the rally. "Shame on Pena!"
More than 50 people, including children playing recorders and saxophones, attended the demonstration. Many held signs reading "Bring Marina and the Programs Back!" and "Pena Must Go!"
Forero-Ferrandino was terminated by the SoNoCC board last month and with her, according to parents, free music and other programs for children.
On Monday evening, the parents collected signatures on a petition asking for her reinstatement.
The parents and children later followed Pena and other board members into the community center, where the board eventually went into executive session.
Shortly beforehand, Pena said "misinformation" had circulated regarding the programs.
He attributed their cancelation to impending construction -- SoNoCC plans to build an Early Childhood Development Center in the building -- and said he had heard "loud and clear" the calls for Forero-Ferrandino's reinstatement.
Carolina Vidal, a mother of two children, didn't accept the explanation.
"(Pena) just said the program is closed because they're going to be in construction," Vidal said. "But he didn't come to us before and say the classes would stop. He just came one day and Marina said no more class because of him."
Vidal said she didn't believe the classes or Forero-Ferrandino would return, based upon a recent letter from Pena to Forero-Ferrandino.
Pena wrote that the board met June 2 to discuss the results of an internal assessment. At the meeting, he continued, the board appointed her husband, Patrick Ferrandino, as interim executive director.
Pena apologized to Forero-Ferrandino that the board communicated her termination through her husband rather than to her in person.
"Nevertheless, this letter is to confirm that the Board of Directors unanimously agreed that your services are no longer needed as a volunteer effective immediately," Pena wrote on June 25. "Please hand in all South Norwalk Community Center property to our interim-Executive Director or our Vice Chairman, Edwin Camacho."
Patrick Ferrandino, also at the board meeting, said earlier Monday that his wife had devoted thousands of hours of volunteer work to SoNoCC.
"To see the way in which she was dismissed is disheartening," he said.
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