It appears Father D. has had enough. As state and federal investigations into Praxis Housing Initiatives continue to snowball, Rev. Gordon H. Duggins, the executive director and cofounder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit, has announced he will resign by the end of June.
He broke the news in a recent staff meeting, sources say. Praxis is one of the city’s largest housing and social service providers for homeless people with AIDS. A spokesperson for the organization, Susan Del Percio of O’Reilly Strategic Communications, declined to comment on Duggins’ announcement or on his future plans.
In a statement, Del Percio noted that since Praxis has retained counsel to conduct an independent review of its business and financial activities, “Praxis will respectfully decline comment until that review is completed.”
Duggins’ decision to leave comes as the offices of the U.S. Attorney and state Attorney General, as well as inspectors at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city Department of Investigation, continue to probe possible improper spending practices and expenditures made by the directors of the nonprofit.
In the first of a series of articles published in February, City Limits reported that public funding intended for housing and social services may have gone to support private hotels and other business interests owned by Duggins and Praxis President G. Sterling Zinsmeyer, as well as by their friends and family members.
In an initial interview, Zinsmeyer, a former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club and once a member of the mayor’s HIV/AIDS Planning Council, said he also had plans to leave Praxis. His decision, he said at the time, had nothing to do with the investigations, and he will step down once the inquiries are finished, to quell any appearance of flight.
“Eight years in this business has been enough,” he said. “Did we make mistakes? Yes. But the organization deserves to continue.”
Despite criticisms of Duggins’ spending habits — which included using Praxis cash to bail a leader of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation gang out of jail and using a company credit card to fund a holiday shopping spree — Zinsmeyer has described him as a tireless worker who held many components of the organization together with his own two hands.