CEO of Kids Hope Alliance placed on leave while under investigation

Joe Peppers wrote last year that he was pressured on grant awards

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter

The head of Jacksonville's office that handles children’s programs was placed on paid leave Wednesday. News4Jax reported that Joe Peppers, CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, is under investigation by the city's inspector general. 

The Kids Hope Alliance is a program run by the city to help underserved youth.

Last September, Peppers wrote an email to two city employees that said he was pressured by Mayor Lenny Curry’s top staffers to steer grant money for a Stop the Violence Campaign to certain groups.

I am stating for public record that I do not agree with the approach dictated to me by the mayors office regarding the facilitation of the RFP (request for proposals) for the $50k grants and the $300k grants. I am also going on record as stating that I believe that I’m under undue influence from the mayors office. Two of the mayor’s direct reports have intimated to me that they expect me to pass certain applicants based on their discretion regardless of how they score on the RFP," Peppers wrote in an email datad Sept. 8, 2018.

In a statement, Peppers said that after sending the email and holding several meetings, the problems were resolved.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Brian Hughes, released a statement Wednesday saying Peppers was never pressured to do anything unethical. The mayor’s office said it could not release additional details about the investigation into Peppers, citing confidentiality of the inspector general’s work.

Memo from Brian Hughes to Joseph Peppers

Jacksonville Democrats have called for the state attorney and the U.S. attorney to investigate the situation in addition to the city inspector general.

Peppers, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, was appointed to the Kids Hope Alliance board, then resigned to apply to become the organization's CEO. He was hired last year at a starting salary of $175,000.

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