Housing Authority Stumped by Inquest; Federal Inquiry Involves Allegations of Wrongdoing

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Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA and JIM SCHOETTLER

A federal housing inspector questioned several Jacksonville Housing Authority employees this year about possible wrongdoing at the agency.

The investigation also involves the FBI and is ongoing, said a law enforcement source familiar with the probe. Other details about how active the probe remains are unknown.

Special Agent Malinda Antonik, with the inspector general's office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, asked in January and February for contracts and financial records related to the Brentwood Park public housing project, board minutes and personnel files.

But Antonik actually collected few records and hasn't been back to pick up the 13 boxes of records housing authority officials compiled at her request.

The Times-Union obtained a copy of attorneys' notes about the inquiries in a file at the city General Counsel's Office on Friday.

Housing Authority President Ronnie Ferguson said Antonik didn't tell him what she was investigating. He said agents from the inspector general's office have in the past come by to discuss clients, but they've never brought law enforcement.

"I don't know what they're looking at, but knowing our processes, I don't suspect there's anything wrong," Ferguson said.

The housing authority was created by the city and oversees multiple public housing complexes that receive federal funds.

Ellen Ramsey, director of compliance and special projects for the housing authority, said Antonik asked her mostly about Brentwood Park, a $43 million public housing project in Northwest Jacksonville.

Antonik asked two housing authority employees about the use of $1 million associated with the project, according to the attorneys' notes. Ramsey said Brentwood was a typical construction project and she knew of nothing that would raise concerns of federal authorities.

Ramsey said Antonik also asked about allegations that the housing authority's senior vice president, Fred McKinnies, used authority employees to do remodeling work at his house. Ramsey said she had no reason to believe those allegations were true.

Antonik refused to comment Monday.

McKinnies, a 15-year employee of the agency, told the Times-Union he has done nothing wrong. He said the improvements to his home -- a $35,000 addition in 2003 -- occurred after a building permit was pulled by a company owned by the father of a housing authority employee. …

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