TODAY, THE BOARD of the Philadelphia Housing Authority meets for the first time since the explosion of bad news over the agency's CEO, Carl Greene.
That news started with an IRS tax lien and a bank foreclosing on his house, and continued with Greene going AWOL and the revelation that four claims of sexual harassment against him have been settled by PHA in the last five years.
It hasn't ended yet. It's unclear what action the board is likely to take. Most likely: putting Greene on leave so the board can investigate further. If the board fires Greene, it must be done without leaving PHA open to a large severance package or a lawsuit. Which means more weeks of instability and chaos at PHA.
That's why Carl Greene should resign.
The most damning circumstances are the four cases of sexual harassment that were privately settled by PHA's insurance company in the last five years. Somehow, "It was all just a big misunderstanding" might explain one case, but not four . . . or five, if you count the settled case in
Detroit before Greene was hired in Philadelphia. Four cases suggests a pattern of behavior for which there should be zero tolerance in a workplace, particularly from its chief.
But there's another pattern of behavior from Greene that has compromised his ability to run a public agency: his pattern of insulating himself from scrutiny. Even before he disappeared last week for five days, resurfacing only to hold a news conference to announce he was taking a leave, he successfully shielded the public and PHA's board from seeing any of PHA's operations that he didn't want seen. He has settled harassment suits with an insurance company without notifying the board. He has created nonprofit organizations that solicit donations from PHA contractors, and he demanded payments from workers for funds with little oversight.
Meanwhile, he carefully built a positive image of a transformative housing chief so successful that few have questioned him. Even in the midst of the most disturbing allegations, Gov. Rendell sang Greene's praises. He elicits cult-like loyalty from many powerful people - most recently, board member Jannie Blackwell, who said Tuesday she wanted to delay her vote on action on Greene until he returns from leave, explaining "we don't have anyone who does what he does, and he's the only one moving housing in the recession."
So apparently, the ability to sell real estate trumps everything, even secret insurance settlements related to sexual harassment.
This philosophy - that we should be expected to tolerate anything in the cause of "good work" - is an unacceptable standard for a board member or a public official to be espousing. Especially when it involves our money.
It's clear the board of PHA has been asleep at the switch; this can happen with a charismstic leader who is spinning success stories, but it's clear that no one has really been in control of PHA for a long time. The set-up of the agency - funded by the feds, with a locally appointed board - means that real oversight can be kept at bay.
Greene suggested earlier that he is being thrown under the bus by the media and that people with bloody daggers wanted to do him in. Given the case against Greene, that's a stunning admission that he is clueless about the seriousness of these allegations.
Carl Greene should do the right thing, and resign. *
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