JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis has written a letter to the Department of Justice urging U.S. attorney Maria Chapa Lopez to investigate Mayor Lenny Curry's administration for fraud.
The letter was sent Wednesday, the same day news broke of a memo Kids Hope Alliance CEO Joseph Peppers wrote in which he accuses Curry's Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes and another former high-ranking city official, Sam Mousa, of putting pressure on him to steer grant money to preferred applicants.
Dennis, who's been a longstanding vocal critic of the mayor, wrote to the U.S. attorney, saying that he has "serious concerns regarding recent allegations of procurement fraud by high-ranking individuals in the office of Mayor Lenny Curry."
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He goes on to say that "many of the organizations that received grant money were run by individuals who had criticized the mayor for failing to reduce crime" and alleges the organizations were handpicked by the Mayor's Office to receive grant money to "quiet criticism."
But Dennis doesn't offer any proof of that in his letter.
A spokesperson for the mayor was quick to respond to the allegations.
In a statement, Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton wrote:
"As usual, this Councilmember is putting his quest for headlines before the facts. All KHA grant recipients, including those who received money from the Stop the Violence grants, were in 100 percent compliance with the laws and regulations that guide the procurement and contracting process. Applications, scoring and awards were all done in a public and transparent process. The records related to every dollar are available for anyone to review and, again, demonstrate complete adherence to the law. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is clearly so because of the public records."
Dennis declined an Action News Jax request for an interview Monday, instead sending this statement:
"Last week, I drafted a letter to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida to request an investigation into matters recently reported by multiple news outlets. I was asked today to produce that letter under laws governing public records.
The citizens deserve a government that represents their interests and is accountable to the people. I appreciate everyone's interest in the letter and will provide no further comment because the letter speaks for itself. I am confident the authorities will investigate as they deem appropriate."
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