Another cloud on Greene's horizon

Carl Greene, director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. (File photo)

About the time that Carl R. Greene stopped making mortgage payments on his luxury condo, a female employee filed a sexual-harassment complaint against Greene and the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the Daily News confirmed yesterday.

Elizabeth Helm, who had worked as a PHA architect and project designer for about a year, alleged that Greene had engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior toward her. She lodged a complaint with both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 30, according to PHRC spokeswoman Shannon Powers.

"I can confirm that we do have a complaint filed under Elizabeth Helm," Powers said yesterday. "It is against the Housing Authority but because it's a sexual harassment claim, it does name [Greene] as a respondent."

Powers said she could not provide further details, citing an "open investigation" into Helm's claims against Greene, who heads PHA as its executive director.

Last night, Greene, through his spokeswoman, vigorously denied the allegations, though he provided no specifics.

"PHA is aware of the filing of an agency complaint by Ms. Helm against both PHA and Mr. Greene," Nichole Tillman wrote in an e-mail. "It should be noted that a complaint merely sets forth allegations and that no conclusions of wrongdoing have been reached. The complainant has not yet had to prove her allegations, nor has PHA or Mr. Greene been afforded an opportunity to present a defense."

Tillman added, "Accordingly, it would be highly improper to draw any conclusions based on the unsubstantiated allegations in the complaint. Both PHA and Mr. Greene vigorously deny the allegations and look forward to defending the matter."

Helm, 29, who was hired by PHA in February 2009 as a "graduate architect" earning $52,000 a year, no longer works for PHA. She did not respond to notes left by the Daily News at her Rittenhouse Square apartment or phone messages left at her family home in Pittsburgh.

Greene - who Tillman said told staff that he would be out of the office again today - has not been heard from publicly since news broke last week that his $615,000 Naval Square town house was in foreclosure. Court documents show that Greene stopped making mortgage payments in April. Wells Fargo Bank filed the foreclosure action against Greene in late July, claiming that he owed nearly $387,000.

Court records also show that the IRS in December filed a roughly $52,000 tax lien against Greene for failing to pay taxes on "small business/self-employed" income for 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Greene paid off the federal tax lien in March, records show.

Greene, who has headed PHA since 1998, is one of the highest paid public officials in the city. He earns $306,370 and received a $44,188 bonus last year.

Members of PHA's Board of Commissioners have said they're perplexed by Greene's financial woes and troubled by his absence.

Former Mayor John Street, the board's chairman, and two other PHA commissioners - City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell and Nellie Reynolds - said they had reached out to Greene but as of yesterday afternoon hadn't heard back from a man known as a workaholic who typically stays connected to PHA through cell phone and e-mail.

A fourth PHA commissioner, Debra Brady, said she believes Greene owes the public an explanation.

"I think he needs to explain to the public what's going on," she said yesterday.

That said, Brady added, "I'm very, very pleased with the work he's done with PHA. . . . That's why to read something like this in the paper, it's hard to know what's going on. I hope he's OK."

Blackwell also expressed support for Greene and said that he is "a visionary, one of the best in the nation when it comes to housing."

Greene has earned many fans, but he also has made foes who have criticized his management of PHA.

Among them is Marcia Allen Phillips, a Moorestown, N.J., lawyer who worked for Greene for one week in December 2007.

In 2008, Allen Phillips filed a lawsuit against Greene, alleging she was fired as PHA's general counsel because she asked too many questions about the secretive inner workings of PHA.

"I got there, and I saw there were no records. There were no files, no documentation of issues from the past. It was like PHA was just born. I cannot work for an agency where they can't document anything," she said last night.

Several employees approached her to complain about "claims of sexual harassment" and other "wrongful termination," she said. "I wasn't trying to create a stir. I just started asking questions and I felt like I was supposed to sit there, not ask questions and acquiesce."

She said she was fired after five days. When she asked why, she said a human resources employee told her it was for some kind of "civil sanction," which she contended made no sense.

In the end, she decided not to pursue the suit. "I felt like he was a large fish. Why am I trying to take him on by myself? Why should I take time and money to unravel all this?" she asked.