‘Breakdown of communications and relationships:’ Housing Board grills JHA CEO in special meeting

The CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority faced rounds of criticism from the agency’s board of commissioners Tuesday.

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The scrutiny was related to the fallout from a recent Inspector General’s report that accused the agency of wasteful spending related to a utility assistance program.

Jacksonville Housing Authority CEO Dwayne Alexander was in the hot seat during Tuesday’s special board meeting.

The meeting came about a month after the release of the findings from an Inspector General’s report, which concluded $1.7 million of pre-loaded utility debt cards provided by the agency were spent on things unrelated to utilities.

Board Chair Christopher Walker argued the findings were misleading and that the agency broke no laws or regulations.

“Based on the information JHA provided it is clear to me that tenants are paying their utilities because we’re not evicting them for nonpayment of utilities,” said Walker.

But Walker said he was concerned that he only learned about the investigation after reading about it in the media, rather than hearing about it from Alexander himself.

“The issue here for me is a breakdown, a complete breakdown of communications and relationships,” said Walker.

The board directed Alexander to expedite the hiring of an HR Manager to improve communication within the agency.

The conversation then turned to Alexander’s contract extension.

In December the board agreed to a six-month extension with a $20,000 bonus, which was significantly less than the $100,000 raise Alexander had sought.

Walker noted Alexander had still not signed that contract extension and questioned whether the board needed to begin searching for new leadership.

He also disputed the salaries of other similar agency heads throughout the country that had been provided to the board during Alexander’s salary negotiations.

Walker said he had hired his firm to look into the data and found only one example of a housing authority CEO making over $250,000.

Alexander was seeking a salary of $350,000.

“Where we stand is we need to decide whether or not we can rebuild a relationship to get to the point where we’re not having to ask the questions. That’s where we stand and I think that’s going to be an individual effort between you and each board member,” said Walker.

The board asked Alexander to make a final decision on his contract extension by the next board meeting, which is set to be held near the end of January.

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