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PHA Director Carl Greene's Philadelphia House of Corruption

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Something is rotten in the city of Philadelphia. Yes, the level of corruption in the Philadelphia Housing Authority is truly a Shakespearian tragedy to the Philly taxpayers.carl greene

Carl Greene, the embattled director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, was paid more than $300,000 last year, a much greater salary than either Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter ($195,000) or Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell ($167,850).

If Greene’s salary was not outrageous enough, his five –year contract provides six weeks paid vacation, 11 holidays, a car and driver! But that's the least of the scandals that have enveloped the fourth-largest U.S. housing authority, a fact that should disturb even every taxpayer.

Over the past few weeks, Philadelphia media outlets have acuratley portrayed Greene, who supervised the PHA since 1998, as a poster boy for a corrupt politician that would make even the former Governor of Illinois Blago blush with indignation. Reports say Greene settled four sexual harassment claims over the past five years -- without notifying the PHA board. Greene faced a harassment suit in his previous job in Detroit, but Rendell, then Philadelphia's mayor, inexplicably hired him anyway. Furthermore, Rendell went so far as to include a clause in Greene's contract that ensured he would be hired in Philadelphia even if he lost the suit in Detroit," according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

Beyond the sexual harassment issues, there are those concerning money. The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that Greene assigned work to politically connected law firms, pressured employees to donate to his favorite nonprofit, and even threw a party using PHA funds for a board member who also is a member of City Council.

In the wake of revelations that he was facing foreclosure and has an IRS tax lien, Greene failed to show up for work for several days, then said he was going on leave to deal with his personal problems, claiming the stress proved to be overwhelming. Philadelphia officials are clearly tired of his antics. Mayor Nutter has called for his resignation, as has The Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia civic watchdog group.

Members of the PHA board voted last Thursday to suspend him. He'll be on paid leave while the board investigates the accusations against him.  Unfortunately, Philadelphia won’t be able to immediately recover the cost of Greene’s salary. Greene's contract says that if he is terminated "without cause" he will get 24 months salary!  The contract does not explicitly cite sexual harassment as a reason for discharge, raising the possibility that Greene could wage a legal battle for two year's severance if he were discharged for that reason.

This embarrassment has gotten the attention of Federal investigators. Department of Housing and Urban Development is taking steps to make sure that federal money sent to PHA was not squandered. In fact, there is an audit is under way of PHA's management and finances.

Such corruption and strife is not only seen in Philly’s public housing agencies, but it routinely occurs in the nation’s public housing bureaucracies.

In 2009, several current and former employees at the housing authority in San Antonio were indicted on charges that they took bribes from developers.  A board member of the Hoboken, N.J., Housing Authority was arrested on charges he took a payoff to move someone up the waiting list.  Officials in the New Mexico housing authority system face criminal charges regarding the agency's default on $5 million in bonds.  In May, a member of the Luzerne County, Pa., Housing Authority pleaded guilty to taking a bribe.

Recently, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) raised allegations of mismanagement of the nation’s 3,200 public housing authorities. Besides the Greene scandal, his concerns included millions of dollars used to pay interest on unused properties in Puerto Rico, insufficient staff in Miami to handle projects the stimulus funds will generate, and rampant waste, fraud and abuse in New Orleans public housing.

Though most people will suggest the need for greater government oversight in order to prevent such public housing scandals, these will only mask the problem. I’d like to echo the sentiments of Ronald Reagan, who said in his first inaugural address, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”.

Look, federal housing has been a disaster on so many levels. Many public housing projects have become a haven for drugs and crime, resulting in many negative effects on children who live in such places.

Federal housing subsidies have also been expensive to taxpayers. In 2009, the federal government spent about $25 billion on rental aid for low-income households and about $8 billion on public housing projects. Sure, people have benefited from cheap, affordable housing, but the truth is that federal housing intervention has often done far more damage than good.

The housing and financial meltdowns of recent years can be partly traced to the distortions injected into markets by federal housing regulations and subsidies through HUD, and other agencies. When the government intervenes in the housing industry, politically driven decisions lead to corruption and economic distortion, not efficient public policies. It is bad for the tenets and even worse for the taxpayers. The federal government should begin withdrawing from housing markets, including dismantling the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Until then, expect to see another public housing authority bureaucrat like Greene make the headline news on a regular basis.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com


Comments


3:19 PM
Thu Sep 9 2010
Thank you Carl - and GOOD RIDDANCE!

And Carl's "gifts" to my neighborhood - Southwest Center City - are a brand-new vinyl-clad project (which we strongly protested both on architectural and traffic safety concerns) built with federal stimulus money along with his foreclosure (his condo is in our Naval Square complex). Nothing like paying a guy $300,000 a year to help ruin a thriving, re-developing neighborhood. This is big government corruption at its worst, felt right down to the neighborhood level. Thank you for being such a great neighbor, Carl - and GOOD RIDDANCE!