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Report Details Issues At Kids Hope Alliance; Investigators Find Possible Misuse

Joe Peppers is pictured in this 2018 Florida Times-Union file photo.
Will Dickey
/
The Florida Times-Union
Joe Peppers is pictured in this 2018 Florida Times-Union file photo.

The former leader of the Jacksonville Kids Hope Alliance may have misused his position by recommending an outside group donate to organizations led by his friends, according to an investigative report released Monday by City Hall’s inspector general.

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union found the report also described an agency disrupted by an estranged sexual relationship by Joseph Peppers, the agency's former chief executive leader, and an unnamed member of the agency's senior leadership team who reported directly to Peppers.

In a separate report also released Monday, the inspector general determined Peppers' allegations that Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration pressured him to give preferential treatment to politically connected nonprofits were “unfounded.”

Related: Joe Peppers Releases Statement About The Investigation

Investigators found that the Curry administration allowed Peppers to continue supervising the employee for months after learning about their consensual relationship after it had ended, even though the employee expressed serious objections to Kevin Gay, the chairman of the agency’s board, about continuing to work for Peppers upon his return from a personal leave of absence he took in April 2019.

“There was a complete lack of recognition of the traumatic experience I had just been through,” the employee told investigators about her April 2019 conversation with Gay, who soon after informed Curry officials about the relationship. “According to the former Senior Leadership Team Member, no one contacted her (other than Chairman Gay) or was concerned about her well-being in this situation."

The report concluded the city had no policies prohibiting consensual relationships between employees and their supervisors, although investigators said Peppers may have violated the city’s workplace violence prohibitions when he sent the employee pornographic images on a city-issued phone after they ended their relationship and “alluded” that he would reveal personal information to the employee’s child.

Read an expanded version of this story at Jacksonville.com.