ACPS chief under investigation resigns

Nikki Harris, chief of Animal Care and Protective Services, to step down

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The city's inspector general confirmed Thursday that the chief of Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services Division who resigned Wednesday is under investigation. 

Nikki Harris' resignation came a month after at least two whistleblowers made allegations that the shelter was being mismanaged and possibly putting animals' lives in danger.

Harris wrote "this has been a difficult decision to make," and that she would continue to work through Oct. 7 before "pursuing other opportunities that I believe will help me reach my long-term career goals."

READ: Nikki Harris' letter of resignation

One of the shelter's former employees wrote what he said was just one of many letters sent to the city about the conditions.

Inspector General Thomas Cline could not comment about the investigation, but said it began after News4Jax aired a series of stories about the whistleblowers' allegations.

John Dolores wrote a letter last year to the city of Jacksonville and he said he wasn't alone. He's glad that the city is doing what he calls justice to all animals who lost their lives.

"There was quite a few problems, along with missing equipment, targeting people, there were many issues -- euthanizing animals that shouldn't have been euthanized," Dolores said.

Dolores described the conditions he saw as an Animal Control and Protective Services employee over the last five years that he worked there. He said it got so bad that he had to write a letter to the city.

"They lost a lot of great employees because of management," Dolores said.

Those same concerns were expressed in more letters sent last month to the city's Ethics Commission, alleging that two managers falsified data and used fraudulent reports in order to maintain the ACPS' no-kill status.

The city couldn't confirm whether an investigation took place after the reports, but officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Harris submitted a letter of resignation.

"I heard about that this afternoon. Seems like the city is finally starting to take the investigation seriously," Dolores said.

Dolores said that he is now considering returning to the organization where he worked for 13 years.

Harris personnel file shows that she came to ACPS from First Coast No More Homeless Pets in 2013. She was appointed chief the next year and given a salary of $90,000. According to her resume, she's worked with animals since 2003 and holds a graduate degree.

The file also contained a letter of praise from former Mayor Alvin Brown, congratulating Harris on being named the 2014 Outstanding Supervisor of the Year by the Florida Animal Control Association.

There were no mentions of any wrongdoing in her file.

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