The head of Florida’s housing authority was suspended, leaving the organization without a permanent leader just as it gears up to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in loans meant to spur affordable housing development.
Mike DiNapoli was suspended six months after becoming the head of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. Also pictured is a Key West housing development that received $18M in funding from the agency.
Mike DiNapoli, executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., was placed on administrative leave last month pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation. A reason for the suspension was not given, but the USA Today Network, which first reported the suspension Monday, cited unnamed sources saying the investigation is focused on DiNapoli’s management style and accusations that he created a hostile work environment.
The suspension comes at an inopportune moment for Florida Housing. The agency is responsible for managing state and federal funding for housing programs and is playing a central role in the implementation of the Live Local Act. The law, which went into effect on July 1, provides $711M in loans that will be administered by Florida Housing toward building lower-cost housing in the state.
DiNapoli’s suspension from Florida Housing, which has more than 130 employees, was ordered by the chair of the agency’s board of directors, Mario Facella, on July 21, the USA Today Network reported. The board, which was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is scheduled to meet Sept. 8 and DiNapoli’s fate is likely to be an agenda item, sources told the news organization.
Florida Housing’s press secretary didn’t respond to Bisnow’s request for comment. Angie Sellers, the organization’s chief financial officer, has stepped in as interim executive director.
DiNapoli, 54, was selected to lead the FHFC in February at DeSantis’ recommendation after the resignation of Harold “Trey” Price, who was appointed in 2017 under then-Gov. Rick Scott.
The agency saw a number of departures following DiNapoli’s appointment as executive director. He fired Hugh Brown, the longtime general counsel who also served as chief ethics officer, and the corporation’s liaison to the board, Sheila Freaney, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Betty Zachem, the agency’s general counsel after Brown’s departure, resigned last week, according to the USA Today Network.
Marie Mattox, an attorney representing Freaney, told the Times that she was fired after reporting “wrongdoing” by DiNapoli and that she had filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
“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 told the Times.
Florida Housing has already been playing an essential role in the rollout of the Live Local Act. It has held multiple workshops to discuss the law’s broad provisions and to provide guidance on how developers can apply for new tax exemptions and state loans for affordable housing that received increased funding through the bill.
While the law went into effect last month, the details around enforcement and the rollout of funding are still being worked on by Florida Housing and other state agencies. Applications for loans funded by the law have yet to be released, and details of the newly created tax incentive program remain scant ahead of that program becoming open to applications Oct. 1.
DiNapoli had previously spent five years at Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which is now a part of the state’s newly formed Department of Commerce. While at the agency, DiNapoli was responsible for the distribution of federal money from the Homeowner Assistance Fund, a pandemic-era program that helped thousands of Floridians avoid mortgage delinquencies and defaults.