Duval County Health Department director demoted after hiring cousin

Kelli Wells demoted after Inspector General's Office investigates nepotism

Kelli Wells
Kelli Wells

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The director of the Duval County Health Department has been demoted after a state investigation found Kelli Wells violated ethics laws.

News4Jax learned the investigation was prompted by a complaint of nepotism. The Inspector General's Office found that Wells had created a position for her cousin, then worked to get her a 60 percent pay increase.

"There is no ambiguity in the state ethics law or DOH ethics policy regarding the hiring of one's relatives," the IG report found. "DOH management was negligent and failed in their responsibilities to ensure laws, policies and rules were followed."

DOCUMENT: Inspector General's report on Kelli Wells

The Health Department is not providing much information on Wells except that she was demoted Monday and Erin Hess has been named interim director. Wells' biography has been removed from the department's website.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed to News4Jax that she is still working for the state department, but had no details.

Wells has been with the department since 2013. She is a graduate of Florida A&M University and attended medical school at the University of Florida. Among the various positions she previously held were associate professor positions at both FAMU and Florida State University's College of Medicine.

Hess, who was administrator of the Marion County Health Department from 2015-2017, was named interim director in Duval County on Monday. She previously was administrator of the Okeechobee County Health Department.

About the Author: