The Philadelphia Housing Authority board of commissioners is calling a mass meeting of the agency's 1,400 employees to boost morale after six weeks of nonstop controversy.
The session, set for 9 a.m. Thursday at the Convention Center, is to "thank them for their work," said PHA Board Chairman John F. Street.
The meeting will be held a week after the board fired the executive director, Carl R. Greene, who ran the agency for 12 years. "We know that Carl Greene wasn't a one-man show," said Street.
Greene was terminated from his $306,000 a year job after the board concluded he was a "serial sexual harasser" who had conspired with top aides to hide three sexual-harassment settlements from the board. A fourth settlement is under negotiation. The total cost will likely exceed $900,000.
The meeting may be contentious. PHA employees have long chaffed under Greene's autocratic management style, and union members are angry over reductions in the labor force and stalled contract negotiations.
In interviews Monday, officials from two of the approximately nine unions representing PHA employees said workers are pleased that Greene is gone.
"The morale for my members has been bad for years," said Kahim Boles, president of AFSCME District Council 47's Local 2187, which represents about 70 technical employees. "It's a little bit better now than it has been, because finally my members see that people are believing what they say."
Employees started complaining about Greene's autocratic management soon after his arrival in 1998, but their objections gained little traction as PHA constructed thousands of new housing units throughout the city.
"Certainly most of our members are very thrilled that Greene is gone," said Council 47 president Cathy Scott, which includes Local 2187. "He was pretty ruthless with members in the bargaining unit."
But employees also want assurances of continuity in the agency's operations.
"There is a high level of nervousness, and just generally people not knowing what is happening," said Scott.
Union members have been feuding with Greene over contributions to their pension plans, and Boles said his local's contract expired more than a year ago. Negotiations have been intermittent at best, said Scott.
The PHA board is seeking an interim director and has interviewed six candidates. A second round is scheduled for Monday. Scott said she has told Street that he needs to go outside PHA for an interim executive director.
Street has said he favored his former secretary of housing, Kevin Hanna. But on Monday he said the job "is still wide open."
Mayor Nutter, a longtime political foe of Street, said he wants to be consulted before any decision is made. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has also said an interim administrator must be acceptable to both men.
"I fully expect that a process will be put together where HUD, the PHA Board, and my Administration will discuss potential executive directors in a straightforward, legitimate and structured manner," Nutter said in a statement.
The Philadelphia housing agency is unusual in that it does not fall under the control of the mayor, who only appoints two of the members. Two others are named by the city controller, and the four select a tenant representative.
However, Street appointed himself to one of the mayoral seats two years ago, and he previously named City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell. Her five-year term is up, but Nutter has not yet decided she will be reappointed.
Former PHA contract administrator Len Trower said Street and other board members should apologize for their "dereliction of duty."
"He needs to apologize to these people who have been abused by Greene. who will never be mentioned in the newspaper or file a lawsuit but are wounded individuals picking up the pieces of their lives," Trower said.
Greene is now receiving outpatient medical care, and has a lawsuit pending against the PHA board.