HUD to PHA: 'Freeze' actions on Greene and others

HUD’s deputy secretary on Thursday dispatched a team of auditors to the Philadelphia Housing Authority “to conduct an audit of PHA’s financial and management operations,” ordering the agency to "freeze" any action against personnel including embattled executive director Carl Greene.

Deputy Secretary Ron Sims wrote today that “We are very concerned about the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars and so will be paying close attention to the team’s findings,” reads the letter, dated Thursday and send to PHA Board Chairman John F. Street, the former mayor. Mayor Nutter, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, and the PHA Board were copied on the letter.

Sims said he has asked the team to report back to him within 60 days with preliminary findings. “If recommended by the team, we are prepared to require a forensic audit of PHA’s financial and management operations,” Sims wrote.

“I urge you not to make any new appointments or management changes to PHA’s senior team at this point, given the importance of this audit and the sensitivity of the allegations currently facing PHA and its leadership,” the letter said. That will affect the board’s actions on the future of executive director Carl Greene, as well as the future of board appointments.

HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Jerry Brown said in an interview that the request to make no senior PHA personnel changes includes Greene's status.

"It means freeze," Brown said. "Stop. Halt. We don't want anyone appointed in the interim. We want personnel as is until we able to take a look."

Brown said a team from HUD -- not the HUD Inspector General -- will arrive Tuesday in Philadelphia to review PHA financial and management records.

"We have taken measures to insure that everything remains as it is until our folks have an opportunity go through it all and make decisions on whether federal funds have been misspent," Brown said.

Nutter responded almost immediately with a press release promising his support.

“I commend the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its decisive action in announcing an audit of the Philadelphia Housing Authority,” said Mayor Nutter. “As I outlined yesterday to Board Chairman John F. Street I am deeply concerned by the recent revelations regarding Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl Greene and by the Board’s oversight of the organization. I know that many Philadelphians share this concern and deserve answers to the many questions that have been raised. The City of Philadelphia will provide any help and support requested by HUD.”

Sims is the second most senior official at HUD, according the HUD website, and “is responsible for managing the Department's day-to-day operations, a nearly $40 billion annual operating budget, and the agency's 8,500 employees.”

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