Housing chief has some explaining to do

Carl R. Greene, executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, retreated to his condo, not taking calls from friends and colleagues.


It has been a rough 10 days for Carl Greene, the head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Lots of troubling allegations have been leveled against him, including claims of sexual harassment and harsh treatment of employees. Greene didn’t help his defense by not coming to work and essentially going into hiding. That has allowed even more rumors and allegations to fill the vacuum. But before there is a rush to judgment, Greene deserves a chance to defend himself against any and all allegations. He hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
How the issues surrounding Greene play out will have a big impact on Philadelphia. He oversees a $345 million-a-year agency with 1,150 employees. PHA is the city’s biggest landlord, housing 81,000 poor residents. The agency has a long history of waste, fraud, and abuse. But under Greene, who was hired in 1999, PHA has been considered a major success. Over the past decade, PHA has knocked down high-rises that were magnets for drug-dealing and other crime, and replaced them with attractive townhouses that have improved the quality of life for those in public housing and the surrounding neighborhoods. Frequent complaints about Section 8 housing have largely disappeared.
In 2008, Greene was lauded for standing up to pressure from the head of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn over $2 million in property to a politically connected property developer. But a torrent of bad news for Greene began with the disclosure a little more than a week ago that his $615,000 townhouse was in foreclosure. That didn’t make any sense, given Greene’s generous salary of $306,000 a year.  That embarrassing revelation was followed by the disclosure that the Internal Revenue Service filed a $52,000 lien in December against Greene for income over four years labeled “small business/self employed.”
In an interview with the Editorial Board on Friday, Greene said that he has been too focused on doing his job at the expense of managing his personal finances. He said he ignored the bills, and likened it to having a toothache and avoiding the dentist. “I have no credible or rational reason for it,” he said. Agreed. But at the same time, there is no evidence to date that the financial issues have impacted his job performance. Greene has since brought his brought mortgage up to date and is working with the IRS on the lien.
More troubling are the six complaints filed by women against Greene since 2004 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging sexual harassment, verbal abuse, retaliation, and sex discrimination. Greene denies the allegations. He told the Editorial Board he isn’t perfect, and is “humiliated, embarrassed, contrite and saddened by his personal failings.” It is unclear where this story will go. At this point, the PHA board and Mayor Nutter need to review all of the allegations and give Greene a chance to respond. But before there is a rush to judgment, let’s get all the facts from all sides, and see where the truth leads.