Jacksonville mayor speaks about Kids Hope Alliance: 'I'm going to keep getting up and going to work'

City grant controversy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the first time since a controversial Kids Hope Alliance memo was made public, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry answered Action News Jax's questions about his administration’s involvement.

The mayor responded to all our questions but also said that because there’s an inspector general investigation underway he wouldn’t discuss certain things, such his thoughts on Joe Peppers' performance.

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For more than a week now, the office of Mayor Curry has been caught up in a controversial memo that came to light last Wednesday.

In it, Peppers, the CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, accused the mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes and former senior staffer Sam Mousa, of putting pressure on him to steer micro-grants toward preferred nonprofits.

An allegation both Hughes and Mousa have denied.

Despite the turmoil, Curry said KHA is working.

“The kids of Jacksonville are being served by the Kids Hope Alliance,” Curry said.

At the center of the fallout are micro-grants of $5,000 to $10,000 that were awarded to local nonprofits, such as churches, to help combat the city’s violence problem.

“Do you believe that they [micro-grants] have helped to reduce crime?” asked Action News Jax anchor Lorena Inclán.

“I would say first of all, those organizations have been helping kids to reduce crime long before the city decided to engage and participate so the short answer is yeah, I appreciate the work they’re doing,” Curry said.

Right now, an interim CEO is leading KHA.

Peppers remains on paid administrative leave while the inspector general investigates alleged misconduct.

On Thursday Action News Jax asked the mayor about the perception some voters and city leaders have that members of his staff have a heavy-handed approach and at times intimidate others.

“What would you tell the people of Jacksonville about that perception? asked Inclán.

“I would say the people of Jacksonville first elected me over four years ago and they re-elected me a few months ago and, in both elections, I said exactly what I was going to do and that’s what I’m doing,” Curry said. “Regardless of what a small group of critics say I’m going to keep getting up and going to work for the people of Jacksonville.”

In a follow-up question, the mayor said there’s absolutely no intimidation between the ranks of his administration.

He also went on to praise the work of Hughes and his former staffer Mousa.

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