• Kids' Hope Alliance CEO placed on administrative leave due to investigation


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Kids' Hope Alliance CEO Joseph Peppers has been placed on administrative leave. The City of Jacksonville spokesperson said Peppers is the subject of an "ongoing investigation."

    KHA is a city agency that carries out city-supported youth programs such as after school programs and early learning.

    A City of Jacksonville spokesperson released the following statement on Peppers' administrative leave:

    "In the afternoon on August 15, 2019, Joe Peppers was placed on paid administrative leave. This leave is in response to notification from the Inspector General that he is the subject of an ongoing investigation. The leave status remains in effect pending the outcome of the investigation. Due to the confidentiality of the Inspector General's investigation, no additional details are available at this time. 

    "With the current organizational structure at KHA, Chief Operating Officer, Donnie Horner will serve as the temporary, acting Director of the organization. In addition, because KHA is a top priority for Mayor Lenny Curry, he has asked Deputy CAO, Stephanie Burch, to be available to all KHA staff for assistance in the day to day operations. KHA's Board of Directors will meet next week and will determine any further staffing changes."

    On Wednesday, Action News Jax obtained a September 2018 memo written by Peppers and sent to two KHA staffers, indicating he was being pressured by the mayor's office to ensure certain organizations received anti-violence grant funding.

    Peppers sent Action News Jax the following statement on Thursday:

    "I'd like to say that working for the Kids Hope Alliance was a blessing. It's unfortunate that politics played a part in helping the least of these, especially those children that look like me. Black males and black females don't have enough people fighting for them. I wanted to be a champion for kids who went through what I went through."

    The City's Office of Inspector General confirmed the investigation, but would not confirm when it began, saying in a statement:

    "The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has opened an investigation pertaining to alleged misconduct by Joseph Peppers, Chief Executive Officer, Kids Hope Alliance.  Pursuant to §119.0713(2), Florida Statutes, all records and information related to the OIG investigation are confidential and exempt from public disclosure until the completion of the OIG investigation.  At this time, the OIG has no further information to provide."

    Thursday's removal comes one day after Action News Jax reported on a 2018 memo written by Peppers. He told two staffers he was being pressured by the mayor's office to ensure certain organizations received anti-violence grant funding.

    " … I am stating for public record that I do not agree with the approach dictated to me by the Mayor's Office regarding the facilitation of the [requests for proposal] for the $50k grants and the $300k grants," he said in the opening line of the memo.

    Peppers believed then Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, and then Chief of Staff Brian Hughes, tried to influence him to give preferential treatment to certain organizations applying for the grants.
    The Mayor's office denied the claims. 

    In April, Action News Jax reported that Peppers was taking time off for at least a month.

    According to the agency and the city, Peppers took time off to address "longstanding health issues."

    In July, Kids Hope Alliance Chief Operations Officer Mary Tobin resigned. She served as CEO while Peppers took time off.

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