BACK IN APRIL, an attorney for a female employee at the Philadelphia Housing Authority dropped a bombshell on top city and state officials.
The attorney accused PHA Executive Director Carl R. Greene of "serial predatory sexual misconduct" against female staffers and called for an immediate investigation into Greene's "well-known" and repeated violations of federal and state laws that prohibit workplace sexual harassment.
John M. Elliott, of the politically connected Elliott Greenleaf & Siedzikowski law firm, sent copies of his April 21 letter to Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, city Inspector General Amy Kurland, City Council President Anna Verna, PHA board chairman John Street and four other PHA commissioners.
"We never got a single response to anything that was written," said Elliott, who is representing Elizabeth Helm, 29, a PHA architect who lodged a sexual-harassment complaint with both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 30.
PHA denies the letter's claims, according to spokesman Kirk Dorn.
"When a letter like this comes in, particularly as part of a legal complaint, it's going to go through the legal process," Dorn said. "Until the facts get vetted, they are just scurrilous charges. Anybody can make them. . . . The [public officials] who have been copied on the letter are waiting for the outcome of a legal process, which is the only fair thing to do."
News of Helm's allegations came as Greene announced yesterday that he was taking a "several weeks leave to get his personal affairs in order." The leave stems from personal financial woes, including a five-month lapse in mortgage payments on his luxury $615,000 condo and a federal tax lien, which he recently paid off.
When asked whether Greene's decision to take a break had anything to do with Helm's allegations, Dorn said: "A lot of very serious allegations about Carl have come out in recent days and, for a proud public figure, it knocked him for a loop. He's not taking a leave of absence to avoid answering the questions. It's just that it all mounted up at one time and he needed to take some time off."
In his four-page letter, Elliott described Helm as "the most recent victim" of Greene's "predatory pattern of sexual harassment."
Yesterday, the Daily News learned that at least five other female employees have filed EEOC complaints against PHA. The complaints, dating from 2004, included sexual harassment, verbal abuse, retaliation and sex discrimination, according to interviews with the women and PHRC spokeswoman Shannon Powers.
Dorn said he did not know whether those five EEOC complaints had been dismissed or settled, but PHA denied the allegations in each case.
Helm's complaint is under investigation, Powers said. Meanwhile, Helm is on an "unpaid leave" from PHA, Dorn said.
Elliott, in his letter, said Helm sought "medical treatment" due to Greene's misconduct. He then detailed jaw-dropping allegations.
On April 12, Greene took Helm to a business meeting at the bar of the Prime Rib Restaurant, where he allegedly told her that a promotion was "contingent on a quid pro quo based on her succumbing to his unwanted sexual advances." The letter said that Greene even told Helm: "I know you don't want to kiss me," but then "grabbed her and forcibly did so."
Elliott's letter also said that Greene "has improperly used his position . . . for his personal benefit, including soliciting cash and personal gifts from the PHA's employee's vendors and law firms." And it called on elected officials to investigate Greene and to take actions to prevent future abuse, including removing him.
Recipients of the letter said yesterday that they didn't recall receiving it or were not in a position to do anything about it.
"I have no recollection seeing such a letter, although it could well have come to the office," former Mayor John Street, who serves as chairman of the PHA Board of Commissioners, wrote in an e-mail. "I therefore know nothing about the matter. I get copied on lots of stuff."
Rendell press secretary Gary Tuma said the governor "doesn't recall" seeing the Elliott letter and added, "Even if he did, it's not a matter he has any control over." Tuma said the issue is properly addressed to PHA or law enforcement.
Doug Oliver, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said: "At this stage, the matter in question is one that is internal to PHA and therefore most appropriately handled by PHA and, if necessarily elevated, by the PHA board."
City Controller Alan Butkovitz recalled receiving the letter and said he spoke with Street about it, who told him he'd look into it. He said his office lacks the authority to investigate PHA.
Kurland said she didn't remember the letter and Verna didn't either, a spokesman said.
Regardless of the response, Elliott said that Helm's day in court is coming. He said they are just waiting for the Human Relations Commission and the EEOC to finish their reviews of the case.
"If you met [Helm] you would see she is very straightforward and professional, and to be treated as she was, as a public employee, funded by tax dollars, is outrageous to say the least, and personally and professionally distressful," Elliott said.
Helm has not responded to notes left at her Rittenhouse Square apartment or messages left at her parents' Pittsburgh home.
Helm isn't the only woman to have accused Greene of inappropriate behavior.
Jenelle Scott, who worked as one of Greene's administrative assistants for seven years, said she filed a complaint against Greene with both the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and EEOC, claiming that he went on a tirade, verbally abused her and bellowed so close to her face that he spit on her lip.
One late afternoon in late summer 2008, Greene told her to ask his driver to come upstairs and help answer the phones, she said.
"Nothing was going on so the driver went back downstairs," Scott said yesterday.
Greene flew into a rage when he found the driver had left, she said. "He came up to me and he started yelling at me so loudly. 'What did I say?' he screamed. 'Is that how you choose to listen to me?'
"He stood over me and he yelled so loud that spit flew out of his mouth and onto my lip."
Scott said that an EEOC employee told her that investigators couldn't substantiate her charges.
Scott said she went out on stress leave for about 30 days. "When I came back he had me transferred to Section 8," she said, referring to the department that handles federally subsidized housing. "That's where he sent everyone as punishment.
"When he felt someone betrayed him, he punished them," she said. "No one could tolerate him."
Scott said she left PHA in April.
Two other former PHA employees, Carolyn Griffith and Melissa Shingles, filed sexual-harassment complaints with the EEOC in October 2004, according to Powers.
Greene has not been seen publicly since news broke last week that his $615,000 Naval Square townhouse 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 his 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 earns $306,370 and received a $44,188 bonus last year.
In a news release yesterday, Greene claimed to have caught up with his mortgage payments and was paid through October. PHA did not yesterday provide documentation to verify the payments.
Staff writer John Baer contributed to this report.