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Embattled Jacksonville housing chief fired following investigation

JHA CEO Fred McKinnies had relationships with employees & tenant

The longtime CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority is set to get 12 weeks of vacation pay after being fired for misconduct. He gets to keep his earned pension.
The longtime CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority is set to get 12 weeks of vacation pay after being fired for misconduct. He gets to keep his earned pension.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just hours before the Jacksonville Housing Authority was set to vote on the fate of embattled CEO Frederick McKinnies, who stands accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace relationships, McKinnies submitted his retirement letter. 

The board, however, did not accept his retirement and instead decided to terminate McKinnies, who had been with the JHA for 26 years. Despite getting fired, he will still receive his pension and 12 weeks of vacation pay.

READ: Retirement letter from McKinnies

Wednesday's move came after an explosive report found he was sleeping with his subordinates and fathered a child with a tenant.

The emergency meeting was called two days after the city inspector general's office released the 78-page report detailing its investigation into McKinnies.

"Front to back, everything he did was wrong," said Jacksonville Housing Authority commissioner Jon McGowan. "Every one of the allegations was worthy of him being removed from this position, from taking the tickets to the relationships he was having and the way he was treating his employees. Every one of them justified him being removed."

Mayor Lenny Curry called for McKinnies' ouster in the wake of the report's release, saying it was clear JHA needed a change in leadership to help restore public trust in the agency. Roslyn Mixon-Phillips, who chairs the agency's board, said she was appalled by the report's findings.

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

As part of their meeting, board members discussed governance and oversight and the search for new leadership. The board now plans to appoint a transition and search committee within 15 days to find a new permanent CEO.

"I think we sent a clear message that we are not going to tolerate this sort of behavior. It is unacceptable," McGowan said. "And I hope we took a major step today in restoring confidence in the housing authority."​​​​​​

The inspector general's report identified consensual sexual relationships McKinnies had with two subordinates from 1999 to 2018. It noted that during these relationships, McKinnies had both direct and indirect influence over the employees' raises and promotions within the agency.

The report also highlighted several outdated policies that did not address or discourage relationships between employees, fraternization between employees and tenants, or sexual harassment. Mixon-Phillips said the agency has already introduced stricter controls and a whistleblower policy.

McGowan will chair a new committee tasked with revising and updating procedures on sexual harassment and other misconduct within the JHA. He said the committee needs to start with the board itself. 

"We need to start there, make sure the board is operating within our guidelines and then we're going to move on to how we treat employees and the sexual harassment issue," McGowan said.

McKinnies was placed on paid administrative leave at the outset of the investigation in August 2018. In place of him, JHA interim CEO and president Dwayne Alexander has led the agency.

JHA staff was invited to come to Tuesday's meeting and several did. One of the questions was, why did the board continue to pay the former CEO for more than a year during the investigation? The board chair said because the allegations were not substantiated, they had no choice. 

About the Author:

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