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Mayor responds to explosive report on Jacksonville housing chief

Investigation found JHA head Fred McKinnies had affairs with subordinates

File photos
File photos

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after a city report was released backing up claims that Jacksonville Housing Authority CEO Fred McKinnies had slept with some of his employees and a tenant, Mayor Lenny Curry spoke out Tuesday, addressing the issue.

Curry was noticeably frustrated as he responded to questions about the 78-page report, which 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.

"Unfortunately, I can't control the bad behavior of certain individuals," Curry said. "The people ought to just behave and do their jobs."

Curry had already called for McKinnies to be fired, releasing a statement Monday that the investigation's findings show a lack of leadership at JHA, which has contributed to a loss of public trust in the agency:

"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."

Curry pointed to that call for McKinnies' ouster again when he spoke Tuesday, saying he did what he could in his role as the city's executive.

“And if, in the unfortunate case I have to again, I will," he added.

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. 

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.

News4Jax checked Tuesday to see when the JHA plans to meet but we have not heard back yet.

"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.

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.