Former PHA chief Greene testifies about animosity between him and Street

Carl R. Greene contends he was wrongfully fired from PHA.
Carl R. Greene contends he was wrongfully fired from PHA.
Posted: February 07, 2013

It was no secret around town that Carl R. Greene, executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), was not a fan of Mayor John F. Street.

But the degree of animosity between the two was laid out in a federal courtroom when Greene took the stand Tuesday in his complaint over his firing from the agency.

Greene said Street pressured him to hire his son, Sharif, as an outside attorney for PHA, and also leaned on the agency to employ a full-time assistant for him when he left City Hall.

"I liked him when he was mayor, but I never trusted him," Greene said.

Greene disclosed that he and several PHA managers had to testify before a grand jury about whether Street used his influence as mayor to get PHA contracts for friends.

A decade ago, the Street administration came under federal scrutiny for allegations that city contracts were exchanged for bribes and campaign contributions. The "pay-to-play" investigation led to the conviction of the city treasurer and other political allies.

Street did not face any charges. He could not be reached Tuesday for a reaction to the statements Greene made on the stand.

In September 2010, while Street was PHA's chairman, the board fired Greene after commissioners learned that the executive director had settled multiple sexual harassment complaints against him without informing them. Greene rejects the allegations and is seeking $743,000 in back pay plus damages.

Now living in Decatur, Ga., Greene, 56, testified for four hours about his life before, during, and after PHA. As PHA's executive director for almost 13 years, Greene was feared by many of his employees for his outbursts and mercurial style. On the stand Tuesday, he was calm and controlled.

Greene said he had spent the last two years "sitting on the sofa watching everyone else talk about me."

Greene described PHA's five-member board of commissioners as "absentee." He said the former mayor's animosity toward Mayor Nutter became a problem for him.

"I had an unhealthy relationship with him because he disregarded and often times degraded and berated the role of Mayor Nutter," Greene said.

He also said Street pressured him to engage his son, who went to work for the now-defunct Wolf Block, a major law firm for PHA.

He testified that John Street brought up his need for an assistant at PHA while they were sitting next to each other on the stage during the swearing-in of Nutter.

In 2010, Greene directed his chief of staff to investigate if the assistant, Kafi Lindsay, was showing up for work. "We determined that she was not," Greene said. "This could have been a dicey situation for me if [Nutter] thought I was allowing John Street to abuse his prerogative as chairman."

After Greene was placed on administrative leave by the PHA board, Street had Lindsay, a lawyer, help him to investigate whether commissioners had grounds to fire Greene with cause.

Based on that public report, the commissioners voted, 4-1, to dismiss Greene, citing his financial problems, the secret settlement of sexual harassment complaints, a hostile environment at the agency, and his abandonment of duties.

Greene checked into a mental health facility on Aug. 22, 2010. "I found the experience helpful to me," Greene said. "I found the value of living vs. the alternative of dying."

Greene described growing up as the seventh of eight children in public housing in Washington. He said his father was absent from his life from the time he was 3 or 4.

He testified that he developed "a fire in my belly to be different from the people I saw every day."

Greene was a linebacker on the Anacostia High School football team. An injury during a game in 1973 left his left arm paralyzed.

At the time, he was diagnosed for depression, but he testified that he refused to take the prescribed medication. Today, Greene said, he is being treated for chronic pain and depression.

In the final hour of testimony, Greene's attorney, Clifford Haines, read from the deposition of Melissa Shingles, one of the four former employees who settled sexual harassment complaints against Greene.

Responding to passages selected by Haines, Greene denied any improper interaction with her.

Shingles filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2004. PHA hired an outside attorney to handle the case, Mark Foley of Cozen O'Connor, who recommended settlement given the potential cost of litigation.

Shingles received $200,000. Greene testified that a draft of a resolution about that settlement - that included neither the name of the woman or the target of the complaint - was presented to Street as part of a package of information for a "preboard" meeting. Such meetings happened days in advance of regular board meetings and were attended only by residents.

Greene said that as a policy, the board did not want to discuss personnel matters at public meetings.

Asked by Haines if Street was made aware of the nature of the Shingles complaint and at whom it was directed, Greene said that at preboard meetings, Street sat next to him.

"He may have said, 'What is this about?' " Greene said.

He added later, "Our board was not interested in the details. They wanted me to build the next development or win the next grant. They were not interested in these kinds of matters."


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

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