It was a chilling performance, though when I ask him about it, Greene says that he didn’t “think that I was personal,” and tells me again and again, talking faster and faster, the problem was that “I really can’t pretend to be equal — my training should be among other CEOs, not in that kind of environment.” The lawyer he confronted, Sybil Bryant, still lives in Mount Airy, but quit working for PHA. She now commutes up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark’s housing authority, nearly two hours away from Carl Greene.
He was a horror of a boss. But there’s another explanation, one that doesn’t excuse Greene’s behavior but attempts to understand his vulnerability: There was no division in Carl Greene, between the person and the housing executive. He lived his job. Which is what made him transcendent on the nuts-and-bolts level of it.
But, more sensitive? More understanding?
It was very simple. Sybil Bryant wasn’t trying to give advice. She wasn’t performing an exercise that Greene himself had set up.
She was attacking Carl Greene where he lived. And of course he couldn’t stand idly by and let that happen.
THE PAST, Greene says, is not far behind. He also says, “I don’t know that I ever really repaired my identity and who I built my psychology around being. I don’t know that I ever really repaired that.”
Now Greene has reemerged to sue the housing authority board for wrongful termination. A former PHA executive says that, in denying the sexual harassment allegations, Greene claims that those suits are common against CEOs of big organizations, that they’re typically brought by a disgruntled employee, or one who misread interpersonal signals, or one out to make a buck.
It’s a bad end all the way around. Ed Rendell, who brought Greene to the city in the first place, calls his firing “a tragedy for the people in public housing and the people of Philadelphia.”
Though Rendell, too, was not ignorant of Greene’s more difficult side. Early on, a
story circulated that a particular PHA employee on whom Greene had been very, very hard went home on a Friday and dropped dead of a heart attack. So Rendell’s standard greeting of Carl Greene became: “Hey Carl, did you kill anybody today?”
Great men, after all, are not good.