Departed PHA head was investigated for affair with staffer

Michael Kelly was presented here as a turn-around manager who would repair the damage at the Philadelphia Housing Authority by the scandal-scarred leadership of former executive director Carl Greene, including secretly settled sexual harassment suits.  But Kelly left PHA Friday with his own scandal in tow: An affair with a woman he appointed to head the agency's department of human resources.

Estelle Richman, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department senior staffer who is once again taking control of PHA, confirmed this afternoon that someone at the Philadelphia agency complained about the affair between Kelly and Audrey Lim.  Richman said her predecessor, Karen Newton-Cole, appointed PHA staffer Kelvin Jeremiah to investigate.  Jeremiah, who followed Kelly here from New York City's housing agency, confirmed the affair, Richman said.

"He felt that there had been no misuse of federal funds in any way and that it was a consensual affair," Richman said of Jeremiah's investigation, which wrapped up in May.  Jeremiah is now acting executive director after Kelly's departure Friday.

A PHA spokeswoman today said Lim was hired on August 2009 as a Senior Advisor with a salary of $95,000. Kelly put her in charge of human resources. Her title when she resigned on May 31 was Director of Special Projects with a salary of $125,000.

Lim, a citizen of Singapore, was first hired by Greene. Richman said Lim returned to her country after he resignation. Richman also said Lim, who needed a job to remain in the United States, may plan to return to this country. Richman described Lim, who has two masters degrees and a doctorate, as being over-matched by her duties at PHA's human resources department.

Kelly was nominated Monday by Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray to head that city's Department of Housing and Community Development.  Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy today said Kelly, prior to his appointment "shared that he had had a consensual relationship" with a PHA staffer and that it had been investigated by HUD. 

"He made a personal mistake," McCoy said via email. "Mr. Kelly is a talented and committed public servant who is dedicated to expanding affordable housing in the District, and we stand behind his nomination."

Kelly, who lives with his wife in Washington, has not responded to requests for comment.