Monday, August 30, 2010

Philadelphia Housing Authority

"Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence."

-Napoleon Bonaparte

I'm no buff when it comes to 19th Century French Dictators, but I doubt Napoleon ever envisioned a civic system as incompetent as the one appointed by the elected government of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia. After seeing and reading countless interviews with Carl Greene and the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, it becomes painfully apparent that state and city politicians, appointed officials, and city employees aren't even intelligent enough to be corrupt.

I'm not even going to begin to dissect the problems with the PHA, a welfare organization meant to help struggling people back on their feet so that they can become tax paying members of society, that instead serve as long term crutches for the city's lower class.

Solutions to the problems with supplemental programs begin with organizations employing and appointing competent people. Not people like Greene, who is overpaid at more than $300,000 a year plus bonuses exceeding $50,000 (that's more than the Mayor and the Governor, and almost as much as the President of the United States), who cannot manage his mortgage and taxes and thus facing foreclosure on a $600,000 Naval Square townhouse.

Oh, yeah, and he also put up a friend in a PHA home for $650 a month. Meanwhile his organization manages a waiting list of more than 30,000 residents seeking one of those homes. The salary of the friend renting the city owned home on his behalf: over $100,000 a year.

In case you're unfamiliar with the story:

Almost a million dollars have been paid on behalf of Carl Greene - head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority - to settle various sexual harassment claims. While a settlement isn't necessarily an admission of guilt, it does say something that PHA insurers have repeatedly avoided the court room.

It also needs to be mentioned that the premiums for these insurance claims are ultimately paid for with tax money, from checks that Greene wrote himself directly out of the PHA budget, one for $250,000.

At this point We The People are essentially paying Greene to molest his employees.

The Board doesn't even seem clear on the rules themselves. As they face a HUD audit, they are scrambling to find excuses for why four lawsuits were settled without their knowledge. It's interesting how John Street said that outside investigators wouldn't know where to find anything. He seemed a little scared that HUD's going to be snooping around. You can bet the board spent the bulk of last week deleting emails.

According to Street, "We get sued all the time for stuff." I'm pretty sure he actually said "stuff". So much "stuff" in fact that settlements for less than $100,000 don't have to go before the board. And apparently lawsuits against individuals within the PHA are not technically treated any differently than lawsuits against the PHA itself, making it merely a technical faux pas that Greene signed his own settlement checks. According to Street, "It would have been nice" if Greene had mentioned to the board that he was being sued for sexual harassment...four times since 2004.

These are the train wrecks that appoint people like Carl Greene.

FYI, John Street appointed himself to the board when he was the mayor of Philadelphia.

So here we are. Insurers have paid over $900,000 in settlements on behalf of Greene, over $600,000 have been paid for premiums by the tax payers on Greene's behalf - yet he is still employed, still collecting his salary, and currently on an indefinite, paid vacation at a retreat that deals with stress - paid for by? You got it, us.

What is the point of an insurance company settling a case on behalf of Greene if his employer or the insurance company don't make an example of him? The logic of this makes my head hurt. He has cost us more than $600,000 in premiums? What's there to debate? Philadelphia city politicos' ability to continuously out dumb themselves is mind boggling.

I understand that he needs to be fired "with cause" or he will collect a two year severance, however $600,000 is a pretty big cause.

Firing him doesn't even change the fact that this has flown right over the head of the board and the insurance companies for the last six years.

I want to hear some apologies from these appointed and hired officials who have access to the PHA budget. No more passing the buck. There is no end to the illogical bull shit that these people get away with - including the entire Board at the PHA - yet somehow, none of them seem to ever go away.