A PHA document obtained by The Inquirer indicates that federal investigators - including, sources said, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general - were seeking documents involving harassment allegations and reports that agency executives and vendors were asked to donate money for various events held to "honor Carl Greene."
In recent days, it has been disclosed that PHA vendors and managers were asked to purchase $100 or $135 tickets for dinners honoring Greene held four times a year.
In addition, the PHA memo asks employees to preserve documents involving Tenant Support Services Inc., a PHA-sponsored nonprofit that in 2008 collected contributions of up to $5,000 from contractors for a celebration of Greene's 10th year at the agency.
Former Mayor John F. Street, the board chairman, said Thursday night that he could not confirm the federal action, but was not surprised by the report.
"It's standard practice . . . to put everyone on notice," he said.
The federal subpoena, typically used to preserve documents at the early stage of a potential criminal probe, came after HUD said it was dispatching a team of auditors to scour the agency's books.
It could not immediately be determined if the federal actions were coordinated.
At the board meeting Thursday afternoon, Street said a decision on whether Greene would be fired, or could keep his job of 12 years, would await completion of the probe in 30 days. However, Street made it clear that Greene's job was in jeopardy.
"He could have built a billion houses," Street said, "but if he sexually harassed one woman on his staff, he's gone."
Still, he said he had mixed feelings.
"For some of us, it's really a sad day because we were here when he came," Street told a crowd of PHA employees, reporters, and tenants. "Among the people who use the authority, he has delivered for them."
Street also defended the board and himself from critics, including Mayor Nutter, who has said the board's oversight of Greene "would seem to defy any kind of sense."
"At least six years," Nutter said in an interview, "we've had this seeming internal reign of terror, in terms of sexual-harassment cases and other issues . . . that there was such a concerted effort, such a conspiracy of silence, leading to the board now claiming that they knew nothing of any of these matters. It's incredible."
Actually, Street said, he knew of Greene's reputation as a demanding and abrasive boss. But he said there were PHA policies meant to handle those issues. Sexual harassment is another matter, he said.
"We're going to find out why those settlements didn't come to this board," said Street, and whether the board's "own regulations were violated" by the secrecy.
One settlement, for $250,000, is still tentative. Cash payments were made in the other three cases between 2004 and 2008. The total cost is approaching $900,000.
Street would not say who else inside PHA, other than Greene, may have known of the payments by the agency's insurance carrier.
The board will hire outside experts for its investigation of Greene, because potential targets include the agency's staff.
The action was unanimously approved, and even Greene's most stalwart defender, City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, did not dissent. She agreed the board had to collect its own information before acting.
"Being tried and convicted in the press is not due process," she said.
Missing from the meeting in a boardroom he has presided over since 1998 was Greene, 53, who had been facing a sexual-harassment charge when he was hired away from a Detroit housing agency by then-Mayor Ed Rendell in 1998. Rendell had sent a lawyer and a tenant leader to Detroit to investigate the charge against Greene, concluding that Greene had done nothing improper.
As of now, Greene is out of state receiving "medical diagnosis and treatment" and "will not be available to anyone" for questioning, said his attorney, Clifford E. Haines.
Haines, who said he was being paid by Greene, was at the afternoon meeting and told the PHA board that he would serve as an intermediary to answer some queries.
Joining Street and Blackwell were the board's remaining members: Patrick Eiding, Debra Brady, and Nellie Reynolds.
Greene will continue to collect his $306,000 salary while on leave.
Street said the controversy had resulted in board members' being accused of receiving perks in return for their service - free medical insurance, cars, and cell phones from the agency. But no such perks were involved, he said.
"We are unpaid volunteers. No one gets a salary. We don't get offices. We don't get cell phones," he said.
Street said his office was a "cubbyhole" equipped with a fax machine he paid for himself.
As the board was preparing to meet, HUD's second-highest official, Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, said he was dispatching a team of auditors to Philadelphia "to conduct an audit of PHA's financial and management operations."
"We are very concerned about the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars," Sims said in a letter to Street, "and so will be paying close attention to the team's findings."
Sims wants preliminary findings within 60 days. If the department suspects any wrongdoing, "we are prepared to require a forensic audit of PHA's financial and management operations," he wrote.
Jerry Brown, a HUD deputy assistant secretary, said the auditors will arrive Tuesday in Philadelphia to "go through it all and make decisions on whether federal funds have been misspent."
Nutter responded almost immediately with a news release promising his support.
"I am deeply concerned by the recent revelations regarding Philadelphia Housing Authority executive director Carl Greene and by the board's oversight of the organization. I know that many Philadelphians share this concern and deserve answers to the many questions that have been raised."
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has two appointments on the PHA board, said the presence of HUD auditors was critical.
"With so many tax dollars at stake, and with so many significant issues uncovered in the media, it's important that there be a quick, independent determination of whether public dollars have been misused," he said.
Greene's PHA contract says he can be fired for "cause" if "intentional misconduct" results in "demonstrable material injury and damage" to the agency.
His contract does not specifically cite sexual harassment as a reason for discharge, only misconduct, but Street, in an interview after the board vote, said, "I think sexual harassment is misconduct."
Greene's contract says that if he is terminated "without cause," he will get 24 months' salary.
The five-year contract signed in 2007 also gives Greene six weeks of vacation, 11 holidays, and a car and driver for PHA business.
In addition to his $306,000 salary, he recently received a $44,000 bonus.
Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-2797 or email@example.com.