Staff at Florida Housing Finance Corp. – the state’s official oversight board – will continue to fund affordable housing projects during the investigation.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ affordable housing director has been suspended pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation, leaving the Florida agency leaderless as it prepares to assign hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mike DiNapoli, executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., was placed on administrative leave last month, according to interviews the Herald/Times had with current and former state employees. The move comes less than six months after DeSantis chose DiNapoli to lead the organization.

A spokesperson for the corporation has not responded to multiple requests for comment, including the reasons for the suspension. The Herald/Times requested DiNapoli’s suspension letter, but the corporation has not released it.

DiNapoli did not respond to text messages and calls seeking comment. The suspension was first reported by the USA Today Network.

DeSantis chose DiNapoli, 54, in February. DiNapoli came in following the abrupt resignation of the previous director, Harold “Trey” Price, who was appointed in 2017, when Rick Scott was governor.

The Florida Housing Finance Corp. was established by state lawmakers more than 40 years ago to manage hundreds of millions of state and federal housing dollars. The corporation provides low-interest loans to developers of affordable housing projects, issues bonds and helps new homebuyers through down payment assistance and low-interest home loans.

The corporation is overseen by a board of directors appointed by the governor. The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.

DiNapoli was previously at the Florida Department of Commerce, formerly known as the Department of Economic Opportunity, where he oversaw the state’s emergency bridge loan program. Prior to joining the state, DiNapoli was a vice president for Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial in New York, according to the corporation’s February announcement.

Since taking the job, the corporation has seen a wave of departures. DiNapoli fired two high-level officials at the corporation, including its longtime general counsel, Hugh Brown – who doubled as its chief ethics officer, according to his LinkedIn page – and the corporation’s liaison to the board, Sheila Freaney.

Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox, who is representing Freaney, said she was fired after reporting “wrongdoing” by DiNapoli.

“She was fired after having blown the whistle on irregular spending practices and the use of the state credit card and/or her age,” Mattox said.

Freaney has filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations, Mattox said.

One of DiNapoli’s hires was Amanda Prater as the organization’s government relations director. Prater came from the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank in Naples allied with DeSantis. Before that, Prater was chief of staff at the Department of Children and Families, where she resigned following the deaths of four small children whose safety had been on the agency’s radar screen.

© 2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Author: kerrys