Investigation: Jacksonville housing chief had sex with staffers & tenant

Mayor Lenny Curry calls for ouster of Housing Authority CEO Fred McKinnies

The mayor wants the CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority fired for his admitted liasons with some of his employees.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The City of Jacksonville Inspector General's Office has released its report into alleged misconduct by the head of Jacksonville Housing Authority, which substantiated claims that CEO Fred McKinnies slept with some of his employees and a tenant.

The 78-page report details multiple consensual relationships McKinnies had with staffers who worked directly under him, but does not substantiate claims that McKinnies sexually harassed some of those same subordinates. The inspector general found there wasn't enough evidence to prove those claims.

According to the report, McKinnies was involved with two employees in relationships that dated back to 1999 when he was JHA's vice president all the way up to him being chief executive officer in 2018. Some of their encounters supposedly happened on JHA property. He's also accused of fathering the child of a tenant who stayed at one of the housing complexes overseen by the agency.

In a statement, Mayor Lenny Curry said the investigation's findings show a lack of leadership at JHA, which has contributed to a loss of public trust in the agency. He called on the agency's board to fire McKinnie and replace him with someone who can restore that trust:

"At best, JHA has a CEO/President who has fostered a culture of unprofessionalism that reflects poorly on its important mission. At worst, JHA’s CEO/President has disrespected its staff and residents with inappropriate and unethical decisions. Either way, Mayor Curry believes the JHA board must terminate the CEO and immediately begin the search for a qualified replacement with integrity who will restore the trust of the City and JHA staff, as well as dignity to the residents who rely on safe, affordable housing."

Among other things, the inspector general's investigation found that McKinnies was responsible for approving salary increases and promotions for the employees he slept with, and that he promoted one of them. As one staffer put it, "he just kept giving me promotions."

The report states that McKinnies also paid JHA employees to make repairs at his home and the home of an accuser. Further, the report found McKinnies accepted gifts, like golf tournament tickets, from a vendor and then gave those passes to employees with whom he had relationships.

For its part, the JHA said it has already taken steps to shore up its policies since the investigation began. JHA Chair Roslyn Mixon-Phillips said the board plans to meet as soon as possible to address the report's findings in their entirety.

"Today, the Jacksonville Housing Authority received the City of Jacksonville Office of Inspector General’s final report of its investigation into allegations of misconduct by JHA President and CEO Fred McKinnies. Quite candidly, I am shocked, disappointed and appalled at the findings," she said.

The city investigation into McKinnies' conduct began in August 2018. At the time, he was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation ran its course.

In response to the investigation, an attorney for McKinnies said that although his client occasionally hired JHA employees and contractors to provide repair services, the work happened after hours or on the weekends -- and that McKinnies paid for the services out of his own pocket.

"Mr. McKinnies is committed, in his ongoing role as President and CEO to speedily conduct that review and implement any necessary changes,” attorney A Russel Smith said in part.

Changes afoot

The inspector general's report made note of the lack of policies that would have prevented, or at least prohibited, the behavior at the center of the investigation. The report recommended at least seven policies and procedures, some dealing with sexual harassment.

Among the recommendations was the suggestion to establish policies on fraternization between the agency's supervisors and subordinates to head off potentially problematic workplace relationships.

According to Mixon-Phillips, the board has already moved forward with new policies and procedures placing stricter controls on fraternization between JHA staff and residents, as well as a whistleblower policy that "gives protection to employees who report wrongdoing."

"I am committed to acting on the OIG’s recommendations as Icontinue to focus on our mission of providing safe, clean, and affordable housing and improving the lives of our residents," she said.

City Council Member Garrett Dennis noted that the outdated policies have been front of mind for the board. Despite calling the investigation's findings "disturbing," he expressed confidence that the group would make the necessary changes to get the agency back on the right track.

"These are some of the most vulnerable people that are being served by the Jacksonville Housing Authority and I truly believe...that this should never happen again," Dennis said. "There should be strong policies and procedures in place that nothing like this will happen ever again."

Dwayne Alexander, JHA's interim CEO and president, thanked the inspector general's office and the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission for investigating the case. Alexander says JHA will do its own internal investigation into the issues detailed in the OIG report.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.