JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Friday to appoint a new leader.
The board appointed JHA Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Dunn to serve as the acting Chief Executive Officer for the next 60 days.
Action News Jax told you earlier this week that JHA CEO Dwayne Alexander blames the administration of Mayor Donna Deegan for pushing him out as the head of the agency.
Alexander announced his resignation during a board meeting on Monday, where he said he was giving 30-day notice.
Friday’s meeting was called after Alexander asked Thursday in a letter to the agency through his attorney to rescind his 30-day notice and volunteer as CEO without pay. The board declined today since Alexander indicated to Dunn he would be available to her, so the board determined a volunteer services contract and all the potential complications with that would not be necessary.
All of this comes as Action News Jax’s Ben Becker has confirmed with the Mayor’s office that JHA is being audited by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a scheduled review and new investigations launched by Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General.
The beleaguered agency has been in turmoil for months, as it tries to tackle an affordable housing crisis, with nearly 163,000 applications on a waiting list dating back to 2012.
Becker first reported in December when the Housing Authority was the subject of two Inspector General investigations -- one found the agency wasted nearly $2 million of federal funds intended for utility cards.
Alexander, who at the time was seeking a $100,000 raise to $350,000 per year, was only given a six-month contract extension with a $20,000 raise, but he never signed it.
Instead, Alexander said he’s leaving for another job with what he says is a much longer contract.
“I feel like the new administration is improperly pushing me out through the board of commissioners based on comments made by some of the commissioners in the past,” Alexander said during the board meeting.
That’s a reference to not only Deegan, but former JHA board chair Chris Walker, who resigned himself last week, citing a new opportunity that he said would present a conflict of interest if he remained in his current role on the board.
But Walker took aim at Alexander during a board meeting two weeks ago about the board not knowing about the IG utility card investigation.
“The issue here for me is a breakdown, a complete breakdown of communications and relationships,” Walker said.
Earlier in January, Board Member Andre Green submitted his resignation to the board. He didn’t give a reason for his resignation.
Former JEA board chair Lisa Strange-Weatherby is slated to take Green’s spot, but she needs to be confirmed by the City Council on Feb. 13.
Action News Jax also told you in December that documents showed an anonymous complaint made in April claimed Dunn had violated policy.
Months later, the Office of Inspector General concluded Dunn did violate policy by moving a former resident into a new property, despite being ineligible because of his criminal history.
Right now, Heather Horovitz will lead the board as vice-chair for the next 90 days.
Alexander had this parting shot.
“I feel like I am being pushed out in a manner that is not consistent with the law,” Alexander said.
Becker reached out to Alexander, who declined an interview request through a spokesperson.
There’s no word on how long the HUD audit will last.
The Mayor’s office released the following statement:
“The Deegan Administration did not force Mr. Alexander out. He resigned of his own volition, and any leadership decisions are up to JHA’s board of directors. Our understanding is that HUD is currently conducting an audit. We do not have a letter in hand stating such. The Office of Inspector General also has ongoing investigations. Mayor Deegan promised to reactivate all of Jacksonville’s boards and commissions. To accomplish that goal, she has made it a citywide effort to appoint board members who bring a greater sense of transparency, accountability, and good governance that has been lacking in the past.”
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Jacksonville Housing Authority Vice Chair Heather Horovitz released the following statement:
“Over the past few years, the Jacksonville Housing Authority has successfully advanced a number of new, exciting developments, including the recent board approval to issue $47 million in general revenue bonds and the agreement to acquire and renovate the 256-unit Westwood Apartments. With the announced resignation of the authority’s CEO, I want to underscore that we are as committed as ever to addressing Jacksonville’s housing crisis by finding creative ways to acquire additional properties. I want to again thank Dwayne Alexander for his service to the authority and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. JHA will be holding a special meeting in the coming weeks to begin the process of a national search to find the best candidate to lead the authority. We remain focused on our core mission of delivering safe, affordable housing for our residents.”