Was city official pressured into steering grant money?

Florida Times Union article details memo from CEO of Kids Hope Alliance

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

Joe Peppers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The head of the city agency that oversees children’s programs in Jacksonville is responding to a published report, stating that he said he was pressured by Mayor Lenny Curry's staff to steer grant money to preferred groups.

The Florida Times union reported that Joe Peppers, the CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, was told by Curry’s executive staff to give special consideration to particular groups. 

The article references an email from September 2018, which Peppers wrote to several people saying: "I am stating for public record that I do not agree with the approach dictated to me by the Mayor's office regarding the facilitation of... grants."  It goes on to say that two staff members "...intimated to me they expect me to pass certain applicants..."

Peppers issued a statement Wednesday that said shortly after the email was sent, there were several meetings, which clarified what was intended and Peppers said in his statement those conversations led to a resolution to what he was questioning in the email.

News4Jax has requested an interview with Peppers to clarify his earlier email and if the situation has improved. A statement from Brian Hughes at the Mayor's office reads:

“At no time was Joe Peppers pressured to do anything unethical and any implication or inference of 'undue influence' or 'preferential treatment' in the procurement process is not factual."

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