JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff, Jordan Elsbury, has spent the last three days in Washington, D.C., meeting with government leaders about the problems at Hilltop Village Apartments.

The Northwest Jacksonville apartment community has been the subject of several News4Jax I-TEAM stories after we uncovered a mice infestation in all of the 14 buildings on the property.

As a result of our initial story in April, the mayor’s office ordered code enforcement inspect all 200 apartments. We’ve now learned inspectors have returned to the property every week and have issued 556 violations since May 4. The mayor’s public affairs office said that 132 of those have been corrected by the property owner and that the landlord has been issued $35,250 in paying citations at this time.


Elsbury has met this week with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, both of whom have already sent letters to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, requesting action to hold the landlord responsible, and have called on HUD to do more to force the owner to correct unsafe living conditions.

The I-TEAM learned HUD was supposed to inspect the property in 2017 but never did. An inspection was not conducted until the I-TEAM and Rubio’s office asked why it had been missed.

Hilltop Village is owned by S.P. Hilltop LLC, which owns 11 other HUD communities in Jacksonville. The owner receives payments from the federal government as part of a contract with HUD to provide affordable housing to low-income earning families. As part of that deal, the owner is supposed to provide safe, decent living conditions for the tenants. HUD is required to ensure that is being done by, among other things, inspecting the property. Despite the missed inspection in 2017, the owner still received $5.7 million in HUD payments.


After we exposed the mice infestation, a HUD spokesperson told the I-TEAM last month that the property management company responsible for maintaining Hilltop Village had allocated $111,986 for exterior exclusions of pests entering the 14 property buildings and have signed contracts that also include an additional commitment of up to $144,000 for interior exclusion.

Yet, it does not appear those pest control measures are working. We have received several calls, emails and texts from tenants who tell us their apartments are still infested with mice. We wanted answers from the Jacksonville HUD Office. It’s supervisor is Alesia Scott-Ford.

“’You really caught me off guard, and I’m not in a position to answer these questions,” she told me when I asked her if HUD is going to continue to send payments to Hilltop Village’s owner.

We spoke to her before she appeared at an unrelated news conference at City Hall.


“HUD is doing everything possible to ensure that families are living in a safe, decent and comfortable environment,” she told me.

When I asked her about the missed HUD inspection in 2017, she said, “I can’t. I’m not allowed to speak

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite was in the job for just eight months during the Trump administration, but reportedly spent about $2.4 million on air travel for 22 trips.

USA TODAY reported that Braithwaite, who was sworn in last May and resigned when President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won’t run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE took office on January 21, traveled to more foreign and domestic locations than any other senior Pentagon civilian amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By comparison: Other service secretaries took fewer trips in the same period, with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy report confirms Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed before her death Pence pleaded with military officials to ‘clear the Capitol’ on Jan. 6: AP Alarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears MORE embarking on 17 trips that cost roughly $900,000 and then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveling to 19 destinations for a total $1.6 million, according to spokespeople from each service.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | ‘Swift’ return to Iran deal possible, US says US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal McConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by ‘the end of the year’ MORE, meanwhile, took four trips in that time frame, and then-Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCourt declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision Inspector general chose not to investigate Secret Service in clearing of Lafayette Square: report The paradox of US-India relations MORE and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took a combined 15 trips.

Where did he go?: Among Braithwaite’s trips was a $232,000 excursion in January to the South Pacific’s Wake Island to record a farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The island is essentially a refueling stop and emergency landing strip thousands of miles from Hawaii where no sailors or Marines are stationed, Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey told the outlet.

Braithwaite also flew to Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India, as well as several trips to Hawaii and a more than $24,000 flight to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family.

Braithwaite’s response: Braithwaite defended his travels in a statement to USA Today, claiming they were necessary to strengthen the Navy after recent crises, likely alluding to the scandal surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

“I am extremely proud of the record of accomplishments of Our Sailors and Marines during my tenure as Secretary, especially following such a tumultuous chapter in the Navy’s recent history of crisis following crisis as compared to our other