City names acting director of KHA in midst of inspector general investigation

Kids Hope Alliance investigation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax Investigates is working to get to the bottom of what sparked an investigation into the CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, Joseph Peppers.

Why should you care about this?

The organization in the middle of this, Kids Hope Alliance, was created by Mayor Lenny Curry to help at-risk youth and help curb violence.

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Curry has proposed $35 million for KHA for this upcoming fiscal year, an increase of almost $3 million from last year.

That’s $35 million of taxpayer money for an organization that is facing turmoil.


Plus, in a September 2018 memo, Peppers leveled allegations about whether the money was being properly allocated to nonprofits that can make a difference with at-risk youth.

Today, a city spokesperson announced that KHA’s chief operating officer, Donnie Horner, will serve as its temporary acting director.

Stephanie Burch, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer, will help Horner with day-to-day operations.

In the September 2018 memo that surfaced Wednesday, Peppers alleged that two of Curry’s highest-ranking officials, Brian Hughes and Sam Mousa, put pressure on him to ensure certain nonprofits received grant money.

One day later, Peppers was placed on paid administrative leave after becoming the subject of an ongoing inspector general investigation.

Action News Jax tried speaking with Curry, but all he told us via text message was, “He – (referring to Peppers) is the subject of an inspector general investigation and I can’t speak beyond that by law.” Action News Jax spoke to Councilwoman Joyce Morgan.

Morgan said, “It’s certainly very troubling to hear this and to hear any allegations that could be going on."

Morgan said she’s confident in the ability of the inspector general to conduct an unbiased investigation.

“I would like to see the truth,” said Morgan. Former City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who is friends with Peppers, said Peppers was only trying to do the right thing.

“To accuse him of anything other than doing the right thing and a man of great character I think is disrespectful of him, as well as the organization,” said Schellenberg.

The KHA board of directors is meeting next Wednesday, when it will discuss more staffing changes.

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