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New mismanagement questions at Jacksonville Housing Authority involving fraud and felon

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax Ben Becker investigates new mismanagement questions at the beleaguered Jacksonville Housing Authority that includes hundreds of cases of application fraud and a convicted felon being allowed to move in by Acting Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Dunn when she was the Chief Operating Officer.

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Dunn was named the acting CEO Feb. 2 following the resignation of former CEO Dwayne Alexander.

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According to this internal document in response to an Office of Inspector General investigation, the agency admits applicants and residents provided false or misleading financial information on applications 246 times from January 2020 through August 2023.

Related Story: Jacksonville Housing Authority Board Chair resigns; second resignation in five days

It comes amid multiple new OIG investigations into the agency and an audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Action News Jax first reported in December about two previous OIG investigations.

One found the agency wasted nearly $2 million of federal funds intended for utility cards and the other targeted Dunn while she was the COO.

Related Story: Another OIG investigation into Jacksonville Housing Authority finds COO violated policy

It concluded she violated policy by allowing a former resident to move in despite being a convicted felon for drug and gun possession although a felon is supposed to be banned from public housing for five years.

Dunn was pressed about it by OIG investigators in an interview last July:

Investigator: “So, was he found eligible or was he found ineligible?”

Dunn: “He was eligible.”

Dunn claims the man was “erroneously evicted” in 2021 for a tax violation and because HUD guidelines only require an initial criminal background check and not an annual one, she decided to ignore the criminal conviction.

Related Story: Source: HUD starts audit of Jacksonville Housing Authority; CEO submits resignation during meeting

Investigator: “Do you have the authority to make that call even though you were made aware that he had a criminal history?”

Dunn: “Yes.”

She made the decision despite the man falsifying his application Sept. 26, 2022 where he marked “no” to ever being “convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime involving drugs, alcohol or violent criminal activity within the past ten years.”

Dunn was even warned about it an email from a subordinate two days after on Sept. 28 that said the man “pleaded guilty to a felony in 3/2022 which make him ineligible for our program.”

Becker emailed the housing authority and requested an interview with Dunn, but she declined.

JHA Statement:

“Unfortunately, she is doing two jobs right now and the Agency has a lot of areas she must immediately address. Therefore, she will not being doing any interviews in the near future.”

Related Story: Jacksonville Housing Authority appoints new acting CEO

It’s unclear how many other people are living in JHA housing with felony convictions.

JHA does say 93 percent of the residents who committed financial fraud in their applications have either paid in full or have repayment agreements. The other seven percent have been referred to the State Attorney’s Office.

Former JHA board chairman Christopher Walker and fellow board member Andre Green both resigned in January. City Council confirmed former JEA board chairwoman Lisa Strange Weatherby to the JHA board on Feb. 13.

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The board is scheduled to hold its first meeting with Dunn as its acting CEO Friday, Feb. 16.

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