PHA interim chief promoted to permanent post

Posted: March 15, 2013

The Philadelphia Housing Authority has promoted its interim head, Kelvin Jeremiah, to the new position of president and chief executive officer.

An expert in compliance and investigations, Jeremiah, 40, had been acting as executive director since the abrupt resignation last June of Michael P. Kelly.

With his appointment, Jeremiah will maintain his salary of $190,000.

Jeremiah, who was born in Grenada and moved to Brooklyn as a boy, was recruited to PHA in 2011 by his predecessor Kelly, who had worked with him at the New York City Housing Authority.

At the time, Jeremiah was tasked with rebuilding the audit and compliance department at the housing authority. Under the administration of ousted PHA executive director Carl R. Greene, the agency's oversight operation had been severely diminished.

Estelle Richman, PHA's sole commissioner, said Jeremiah was "the best person to continue to move PHA forward."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development assumed control of PHA in 2011 after the board stepped down in the wake of Greene's termination. Richman said the appointment of Jeremiah is "a major step for PHA to return to local control."

As interim director for nine months, Jeremiah had to steer PHA through a federal lawsuit filed by Greene. Greene was fired following the revelation that he had settled a series of sexual harassment complaints against him, but Greene argued that he had been fired without cause and was owed lost pay. After five days of testimony, PHA settled for $625,000.

Since joining PHA, Jeremiah said his main challenge has been trying to change the culture of the agency, which he described as one of "splurge and excess."

"For too many years, PHA was not the best neighbor, not the best employer, not the best partner," he said. "Changing that dynamic is important."

Jeremiah became interim executive director after Kelly was forced to resign over an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

As interim director, Jeremiah made waves by firing most of PHA's senior staff, eliminating 335 "provisional" union jobs in the building trades and getting rid of staff perks like company cars.

At the same time, he rebuilt PHA's police department and instituted a plan to add 6,000 units of public housing in five years, mostly by partnering with other agencies or nonprofits.

Mayor Nutter said Jeremiah has helped to "restore ethics, integrity and pride in working at PHA."

With PHA facing a budget cut of $42 million this year, Jeremiah said the shrinking federal support will be a main challenge moving forward. PHA is the largest landlord in the city and state and has 140,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing.

"We're working hard to do more with less," he said in an interview.


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

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