Joe Peppers, the head of Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance, has been put on administrative leave with pay after a memo surfaced of a meeting he had with two members of Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration.
Florida Times Union reporter Chris Hong broke the story. The T-U is a WJCT News partner.
As he explained on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Friday, the meeting had to do with how Peppers was to award a number of Stop the Violence micro grants of $10,000.
“And it’s supposed to be objective and it’s supposed to be free from political influence. Peppers says in the memo—and this wasn’t an interpretation. He says flat out that Brian Hughes and Sam Mousa told him that they were going to tell him later there were going to be certain groups that are going to get preferential treatment in the process,” Hong said.
At the time of the meeting Brian Hughes was Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief-of-Staff while Sam Mousa was the city’s Chief Administrative Officer. Hong said both men have denied politicizing the grant-award process.
The groups that received the crime-fighting micro-grants haven’t been publicly identified.
In the meantime, Peppers is being investigated by the city’s Inspector General’s Office, while the Duval County Democratic Party is calling for an independent investigation into Mayor Curry.
City spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton told the Times-Union that the details of the investigation are confidential and that she couldn’t provide any more information.