Nathan Gorenstein, Jennifer Lin, and Craig R. McCoy, Daily News (Philadephia), August 23, 2010
An insurer for the Philadelphia Housing Authority has reportedly agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim against executive director Carl R. Greene, but PHA still faces a host of other controversies.
A women’s rights group is calling for an investigation of Greene’s conduct, and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to know why Greene is better paid than Mayor Nutter and Gov. Rendell combined. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating how PHA is using $31 million in stimulus money.
“I question the propriety of settling the case,” Street [PHA’s board chairman, former mayor, John F. Street] said, while the PHA board is “in the middle” of trying to determine what happened between Greene, 53, and Elizabeth Helm, 29, a former interior decorator with PHA.
Elliott [Helm’s attorney, John M. Elliott] said his client has refused to sign a confidentiality agreement and added that she will “fully cooperate with any federal or state authorities who are investigating Carl Greene or PHA,” he said.
In a four-page letter sent April 21 to Street, Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell and nine others, Elliott accused Greene of “serial predatory sexual misconduct” and alleged that he groped Helm at the Prime Rib Restaurant at 1701 Locust St. after “insisting” she meet him there.
The Helm allegation, and reports of three other sexual harassment complaints against Greene, prompted the Women’s Law Project to call on the PHA board to investigate the allegations and publicly disclose the results.
Greene was hired to head PHA in 1998 amid allegations that he had sexually harassed an employee of a Detroit housing commission that he headed. That complaint was resolved with a settlement under which the complainant was paid money and Greene admitted no wrongdoing.
As of now, however, Greene has decided on his own to take several weeks off to deal with what he has described as stress-related exhaustion.
Greene’s troubles started ten days ago with the disclosure that he was facing foreclosure on his $615,035 townhouse in the upscale Naval Square development in the city’s Schuylkill section. The next day, news broke that he was being dunned by the IRS for $52,000 in back taxes. Both matters have since been resolved, according to Greene.
After dropping out of sight for much of last week, on Thursday he announced he was taking a break, and on Friday told the Inquirer, “I have suffered from personal failings,” he said, “I offer my most humble apologies to the world.”
Greene said he was emotionally undone by the lien, filed in December, which froze his bank account and meant he could not pay the mortgage.
The Inspector General’s office of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has also opened an investigation into PHA’s use of stimulus funds for renovating 340 scattered-site vacant houses.
The program audit, started last month, involves the spending of $31 million in federal stimulus dollars.
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked HUD Secretary Shaun L.S. Donovan why Greene’s salary is $306,370–about $100,000 more than Donovan himself earns.
Combined with a $44,188 bonus, that is more that Gov. Rendell and Mayor Nutter’s pay.
Grassley demanded to know if HUD “was aware of questionable financial activities” at PHA, and what complaints have been filed “by employees regarding problems at the housing authority.”
He also wanted to know about $2.12 weekly payroll deductions nonunion employees at PHA are required to make to a murky nonprofit Greene established called the Pennsylvania Institute of Affordable Housing.
PHA has received about $127 million in federal stimulus money it is using that to build or renovate 1,200 units of housing.
[Editor’s Note: The earlier story about Carl Greene’s financial difficulties can be read here.]