Greene cases settled for $900,000

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Four previous sexual-harassment claims against Carl Greene were settled at a total cost of nearly $900,000, the Inquirer has learned. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)

The cost to secretly settle four sexual-harassment claims against Carl R. Greene, executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, is nearing $900,000, according to an agency document obtained by The Inquirer.

Two women received payments in 2004; one got $200,000 and the other $98,000. In 2008, a third woman received $350,000. The fourth case, filed earlier this year, is near settlement for $250,000.

Details of the payments, which were agreed to without the knowledge of PHA board members, are included in a PHA document that contains a summary of each case and the allegations the women made against Greene.

The PHA board is set to meet Thursday to consider the future of the embattled executive director as the chorus of officials demanding his resignation grows louder by the day. Sources familiar with the discussions said Wednesday the five-member board would suspend Greene for a month while it conducts an investigation but would resist calls, at least for now, that he be fired.

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Mayor Nutter on Wednesday released a letter sent to the PHA chairman, former Mayor John F. Street, saying Greene "must be terminated" if allegations of sexual harassment are "accurate" and if payments were made without the board's knowledge.

Nutter also pointedly rebuked the board and Street, saying "the very leadership of PHA is in doubt" and that the agency "sadly, may be suffering from a lack of appropriate oversight."

"I am baffled like most Philadelphians to learn of your contention that you as board chairman had no knowledge of the sexual-harassment cases brought against Mr. Greene," Nutter wrote in his letter to Street.

The secrecy of PHA managers has also infuriated Street, but on Wednesday he said the board had to conduct its own internal investigation before deciding whether Greene stays or goes. As to Nutter's criticism, Street was dismissive. "He's just talking. He has to say something."

Two sources familiar with the PHA board's plans said an internal investigation would be ordered, with the results to be completed within 30 days. The board will also discuss sexual-harassment training and PHA's sexual-harassment policies, including possible changes to those policies, the sources said.

"My understanding is that there will be a call for an investigation of allegations against Mr. Greene," said City Councilwoman and PHA board member Jannie L. Blackwell. "I believe the board will support an investigation, given the public outcry.

In his letter, Nutter also demanded from Street all information about the four sexual harassment settlements involving Greene, and all details about the relationship between PHA and a related nonprofit called Tenant Support Services Inc. TSSI is run by a tenant leader and Greene ally named Asia Coney, who is paid $101,000 a year while living in public housing.

Nutter also called for an "independent" investigation of PHA's operations, a move also endorsed Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, (D., Pa.) The Committee of Seventy, meanwhile, said Greene's ability to lead the agency that provides housing to 81,000 people in 32,000 units and spends $280 million in federal funds on development projects has been "thoroughly compromised."

"Rather than put the board in the untenable position of firing him, which now appears inevitable, he should take the more honorable step of resigning," said Zachary Stalberg, the group's president and CEO.

Greene, hired in 1998, remains in seclusion after taking a leave last week to deal with the stress. His attorney informed the board this week that the 53-year-old executive director is "undergoing medical diagnosis and treatment outside Pennsylvania" for three weeks.

Greene's attorneys have also indicated he will not resign, Street said.

If Greene quit he would leave behind two years of his $306,000 annual salary and forfeit the right to sue the board. Those circumstances mean Greene "cannot quit," said Street.

As for termination, Greene's contract "has provisions in there that require that he be terminated for cause, and cause is defined. And we are not free, willy nilly," to fire him, Street said.

He said the delay in any final action by the board "doesn't mean he won't get fired, or he shouldn't be fired. But if we . . . punish him in any way," Street said, "we have to have our own information . . . that we should develop out of our own investigation."

Sexual harassment is not specifically cited as cause for discharge, Street said, indicating that attorneys for both Greene and the PHA are arguing over whether it is cause for termination.

"Every lawyer in the city will have a different opinion on that," Street said. The exact terms of Greene's contract will be released Thursday.

Details of some of the sexual harassment allegations made against Greene have come out over the past two weeks, including the names of two of the former employees. The document obtained by the Inquirer for the first time presents a chronology for these claims and describes both the cases and the settlements reached by the insurance carrier.

The most recent case, filed earlier this year, involves Elizabeth Helm, an interior designer. She has reached a tentative agreement to settle her complaint for $250,000. She has declined to comment.

As the Inquirer previously reported, Melissa Shingles, a former senior management specialist at PHA, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Shingles settled the case. She declined to comment Wednesday.

The women in the other two cases filed complaints in 2004 and 2008. They have not been publicly identified and the Inquirer is withholding their names at their request.

The document includes brief summaries of each incident. Among the details:

- In a 2004 case a manager alleged PHA, acting through Greene, had a pattern of discrimination "against attractive young women." The woman said she was given undesirable jobs, publicly humiliated, and ultimately fired "for false . . . reasons because she rebuffed the ED' advances." "ED" refers to the executive director. She received $200,000, including $50,00 in attorneys costs.

- In the other 2004 case another manager alleged racial and gender discrimination. She said Greene touched her inappropriately, called her "bitch" and "racist bitch" verbally abused her, "acted in a manner that made it clear he wanted to have an inappropriate relationship". The woman said at PHA human relations manager told her "that's just how things are at PHA." She received $98,000, including $39,200 in attorneys' fees.

- In the 2008 case another white collar employee said she went to Greene's apartment to watch a film when he started fondling her despite her protestations. She later took a transfer and Greene allegedly continued to ask her out, touch her inappropriately, and threatened to give her home address to a worker she laid off. She received $350,000 including $129,500 in attorneys fees.

- In the widely publicized case of Elizabeth Helm, filed earlier, she alleged that Greene demanded she meet him in bars and restaurants, made inappropriate comments, touched her inappropriately, and "threatened her with denial of a promotion."

In all the cases PHA "strictly denied the accusations in each of these cases and admitted no liability," the document says.

 


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.