DUVAL DEMOCRATS CALL FOR INDEPENDENT MULTI-AGENCY INVESTIGATION INTO MAYORAL OFFICE’S ACTIONS
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County Democratic Party is calling for an independent multi-agency investigation by the City of Jacksonville Inspector General, State Attorney for Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit, and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida into the actions of Mayor Lenny Curry’s office during the city’s “Stop the Violence” initiative. Specifically, we call for a conduct review of then officials Brian Hughes and Sam Mousa, and if they – or other members of the administration and the city's Office of General Counsel – exerted unlawful pressure to give favored treatment to select organizations, helping them secure thousands of dollars in public grant funding.
In a recent report by the Florida Times-Union, Kids Hope Alliance CEO Joe Peppers cites the disdain of Hughes and Mousa over his decision to hire a contract manager to oversee the initiative’s $364,000 in micro-grant money. “This is family talking; this is political,” Peppers claims Mousa said. During this private conversation, Hughes and Mousa urged the funds be managed in-house as “there would be designated applicants that would get preferential treatment during the application process,” according to Peppers.
Peppers continued that he was expected to “pass certain applicants based on [Hughes and Mousa’s] discretion regardless of how they scored on the [request for proposal].” When he sought legal advice with the city’s Office of General Counsel, he was instructed by Deputy General Counsel Lawsikia Hodges to not “bite the hand that feeds” him and it was “not a big deal”.
This intimidation signifies the administration’s willingness to exert influence over a community program that was designed to help those in need and groups providing assistance to them. We are deeply concerned these actions amount to unlawful procurement fraud, abuses of executive power and possibly more unethical activity.
Additionally, this incident occurred in the months building up to the mayor’s re-election campaign. This leads to troubling concerns that taxpayer-funded micro-grants could have been utilized by the administration for political pay-offs to quiet criticism of Mayor Lenny Curry during the upcoming election cycle.
We demand the offices of the Inspector General, State Attorney, and U.S. Attorney explore the roles Hughes, Mousa, and the mayoral administration played in selecting micro-grant winners, and what role these preferred organizations played in the Curry re-election campaign. We also demand the actions and responses of Hodges be reviewed for unethical misconduct by the Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation.
The Duval County Democratic Party is the official organization collectively representing Democrats in Duval County. The leadership is focused on ensuring effective government work that supports worthwhile projects and provides opportunity. The party works to advance candidates, public officials, and policies that promote core Democratic values.