Bill would give mayor control of PHA

Posted: June 21, 2012

THE STATE HOUSE is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation changing how members are appointed to the Philadelphia Housing Authority, just as the agency is being rocked by a new sex scandal.

The legislation, approved in a 49-0 vote in the state Senate on Dec. 5, would increase the board from five members to nine.

State Rep. Mike McGeehan of Northeast Philly opposes the change, saying that PHA's governance should not be tinkered with while there are ongoing probes into the management by former executive director Carl Greene, who secretly settled sexual-harassment suits filed against him.

In Wednesday's House floor debate on the legislation, McGeehan plans to cite the revelation Tuesday that Greene's replacement, Michael Kelly, resigned on Friday after an investigation showed he had an affair with a woman he put in charge of human resources at PHA.

"You can bet they're going to get a one-two shot right between the eyes," McGeehan said.

Mayor Nutter, who praised Kelly as he departed PHA last week, lobbied for the increased power the legislation would give him on board appointments. When asked about the Kelly affair Tuesday, Nutter said: "I don't have any information about that."

Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, would not answer a yes-or-no question from the Daily News when asked if the mayor knew about Kelly's affair.

"The mayor was told by Kelly that he was resigning for personal reasons. That's what the mayor knew," McDonald replied.

Estelle Richman, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development official who now oversees PHA, noted that the new procedure, if signed into law, would not be used until her agency releases PHA from federal receivership.

The legislation gives the mayor power to appoint nine PHA board members, with approval by a majority vote in City Council. Two would be PHA residents nominated in a process approved by the mayor, Council president and PHA executive director.

Currently, the mayor selects two members, the city controller selects two, and then those four chose a fifth member.

The legislation also creates a "Whistleblower Hotline" at PHA "for reporting of fraud, waste, abuse or any wrongdoing." n

—Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report. Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email him at brennac@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN and read his blog, PhillyClout.com.

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