JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The president and CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a city investigation into numerous complaints against him from staff, News4Jax has learned.
JHA board members, who are appointed by the mayor, voted unanimously Thursday morning to make the move, which goes into effect next week. JHA runs public housing in Jacksonville.
At an open meeting Thursday, board members would not discuss the specific complaints against Fred McKinnies, but News4Jax has learned at least one involved a hostile work environment. On Friday, two other sources confirmed that and said the problems were not only with staff but with tenants who received special treatment.
The city is investigating the allegations, which include that McKinnies inappropriately used his position of authority, according to News4Jax sources.
"Because of the seriousness of the allegations and because they are against the head of our agency, OGC (Office of the General Counsel) has recommended that the board place Mr. McKinnies on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete," JHA board member Roslyn Phillips said.
McKinnies, who has worked with the JHA since 1993 and became president about five years ago, was not at the meeting and has not been available to comment since. Dwayne Alexander, who joined the JHA this year, has been named as the interim CEO during the investigation.
After the open meeting, officials from the housing authority declined to release the complaints or discuss them with the media.
McKinnies' administrative assistant, Linda Sims, tried speaking at a board meeting last month about problems she's had with McKinnies, but she was shut down, even though it was a public meeting.
She said she filed complaints against McKinnies with the city and the board. After Thursday's meeting, she declined to elaborate on the specific allegations under investigation by the city.
“We are starting to move in the right direction. I’m willing to work with the agency as long as they are willing to work with me,” Sims said, noting that “multiple issues” are being looked into related to McKinnies. “It was things that were out of my control. I work directly for him. I went through the necessary process, and they're working on it.”
City Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is the liaison to the JHA for the City Council, was not at the special meeting Thursday nor the board meeting last month, but said Friday he is now aware of the investigation.
"I think we should allow the investigation to go through," Dennis said. "I have confidence in Fred McKinnies. He has done well over the agency. And I can't help but hope that this is not politically motivated and that a full investigation is in order."
News4Jax has been asking several questions about the investigation: Who is going to do it? Is it the ethics office of the city or the city inspector general? At this time, no one can say. In fact, they can’t even say if there were actual complaints. How long this is going to last is up in the air, as well.
For two days, News4Jax has also been asking and going through the JHA's budget book to find out McKinnies' salary and other information, but keeps getting the runaround from the staff.
No charges have been filed. At this point, it's just an investigation into unfounded complaints.
The mayor's office declined to comment because of the pending investigation.
In the meantime, the agency is getting ready to prepare a waiting list of people trying to get into public housing in Jacksonville.