PHA seeks to recover payments made by Greene

Posted: January 13, 2013

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is trying to take back more than $400,000 in pension contributions paid to at least seven senior managers who worked for former Executive Director Carl R. Greene.

At the PHA's Friday board meeting, the agency's sole commissioner, Estelle Richman, supported the action to retrieve payments made three years ago.

The senior staffers got additional contributions to their defined benefits plans in December 2008. Some received more than $50,000.

Kelvin Jeremiah, interim executive director, said the contributions were excessive and "not properly authorized" by PHA's board of commissioners.

He said that under Greene, PHA was known for its "lucrative executive package."

"We're just trying to correct a mistake of the past," Jeremiah said. "It's keeping with my agenda."

Greene was terminated by PHA in September 2010 after commissioners learned he had settled sexual-harassment complaints without telling them.

Since then, federal authorities have been investigating multiple aspects of PHA operations, including its past spending.

Many of the senior staffers who received the pension contributions have been interviewed by federal investigators, according to people familiar with the questioning. They were asked about how the payments were approved and distributed.

Jeremiah said an internal administrative board that used to oversee the agency's pension plans was disbanded in 2011.

The resolution passed on Friday acknowledges that PHA understands that there may be "limited success" in recovering the funds, since many of the recipients no longer work for the authority.

In other business, Richman approved PHA's new annual plan for the federal "Moving to Work" program, which provides its funding.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $368 million to PHA for the year starting April 1. In its report to HUD, the authority said it had 140,000 people on the waiting list for housing or rental subsidies.

PHA administers 19,882 housing vouchers for the federal government and maintains more than 14,000 units of public housing in developments or scattered sites.

Jeremiah acknowledged that the waiting list was "very, very high."

He said that in the next five years, PHA hopes to renovate or build 6,000 units of housing and will make a greater effort to partner with the city, nonprofit organizations, and other affordable-housing developers.

The current pipeline has plans for 655 new units, including developments in the Queen Lane and Queen's Row housing complexes, as well as in Strawberry Mansion and on individual scattered sites.

At the same time, PHA will demolish or dispose of 1,259 units.

In the year ahead, Jeremiah said, PHA also will work on redesigning a high-profile employment training program for preparing residents for the building trades. The "pre-apprenticeship program," which Greene viewed as one of his main achievements, has not produced results, Jeremiah said.

Of 810 residents who have graduated from the program, only 235 are working in the building trades, he said.

"That is not sufficient," Jeremiah said. "They're getting union cards, not union jobs."


Contact Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @j_linq.

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