DeSantis’ affordable housing director Mike DiNapoli resigns

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ embattled affordable housing director, who was accused of creating a hostile workplace, resigned on Thursday.

Mike DiNapoli, 54, stepped down a day before the Florida Housing Finance Corp. board of directors was set to fire or reinstate him.

The resignation ends months of drama since DeSantis chose the former New York financial adviser to lead the housing corporation, an independent state entity that oversees and distributes billions of state and federal affordable housing dollars.

In July, the corporation’s board chairman placed DiNapoli on paid leave while its inspector general looked into allegations that he was abusive and sexist.

A month later, DeSantis reinstated DiNapoli, with a spokesperson saying the investigation had “found nothing to justify the placement of Mr. DiNapoli on administrative leave.”

Michael DiNapoli
Michael DiNapoli [ Florida Housing Finance Corp. ]

In September, the corporation’s inspector general, Chris Hirst, presented his investigation to the board, reporting that employees alleged DiNapoli screamed at staff, made sexist comments, talked about their weight and threatened their jobs.

The board then placed him on leave a second time, prompting a DeSantis administration official to call the inspector general report a “media hit piece.” DeSantis’ press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, blasted the board, mostly made up of DeSantis appointees, as members of the “deep state” who lacked the “ability to sort fact from fiction.”

A spokesperson for the corporation did not respond to a request for comment on the resignation.

Since DiNapoli took the job, 10% of the housing corporation’s workforce were fired by him or quit, including its longtime general counsel and its board liaison. After DeSantis reinstated DiNapoli, the human resources director also quit, citing “the abuse and trauma of the last six months.”

Outside counsel for the board concluded that DeSantis did not have the legal ability to reinstate DiNapoli.

In his investigation, which has not been publicly released, Hirst interviewed 24 current and former employees over two months.

“The conduct is severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive,” Hirst told board members last month.

Hirst’s investigation also found that DiNapoli violated the corporation’s policies.

DiNapoli also served on the board of the First Housing Development Corp. of Florida, which contracts with the corporation. Three of the corporation’s general counsels said it was a conflict of interests. Hirst agreed.

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According to Hirst, DiNapoli responded to the allegation by saying it was a “gray line,” and “an appearance of a conflict is not a conflict.”

DiNapoli also ordered the corporation’s chief financial officer to sell its Disney bonds, at a loss, Hirst concluded, in reaction to the entertainment company’s ongoing dispute with DeSantis over control of its Orlando-area special taxing district. Hirst found that action violated the corporation’s policies.

The corporation also violated its policies when it hired DiNapoli, Hirst concluded. DiNapoli came recommended by James Uthmeier, DeSantis’ chief of staff, who is also leading his presidential campaign. But the corporation did no background checks or interview references. Nor did it have DiNapoli’s resume or application on file.

Had they looked into DiNapoli’s background, they might have found a recent history of financial troubles. In the eight years before he was appointed by DeSantis, he lost his job with UBS in New York City, filed for bankruptcy, had his Ocala home foreclosed on and had his bank accounts garnished by debtors.

Weeks after leaving UBS in 2015, a woman who claimed DiNapoli was her brother and financial adviser filed a complaint alleging that DiNapoli “stole money from her account as well as forged her name to a check that was addressed to her and deposited those funds in another account.”

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