Feature: The Devil & Carl Greene

Is he a serial sexual harasser and tyrannical boss, as some of his former employees allege? Or is he the most effective public-housing leader in the history of Philadelphia, as he and his defenders contend? Or could Carl Greene, somehow, be both?


Ed Rendell hired Carl Greene away from Detroit’s housing authority to run Philadelphia’s in 1998, near the end of his second term as mayor. (Greene had been sued for sexual harassment by one of his employees in Detroit — a case that was later settled — and Rendell dispatched a lawyer to check into it; the Mayor concluded that it would not be a recurring problem.) PHA, which had 2,700 employees and owned or controlled 22,000-plus properties — many unusable — had long been a cesspool of patronage and inefficiency and neglect.

If you were a PHA tenant with, say, water leaking into your kitchen, it would take an average of 200 days for anybody from Housing to come take a look at it. PHA workers didn’t much care. Many of them, Greene found, had all kinds of family working there — sons and daughters and cousins and so forth. The city’s political culture had installed workers with a sort of lifelong tenure.

Moreover, the authority’s computer systems were ages behind, the business practices outdated, and enforcement of basic workplace expectations — such as coming in to work every day and actually working — nonexistent.

His first day on the job, Greene showed up at 6:30. His employees began straggling in at 9:30, 10. So for the next six months, he called a meeting every morning at 7:30 with different groups of workers. He created a new organizational chart. He regularly dressed down employees in meetings if he felt they were unprepared — workers would sometimes leave meetings and walk right on out of the building, never to return. Within a year, most of the senior staff was gone. It was the only way to change the agency’s culture: Shred it.

Greene’s explanation of his management style is — well, it is this: “I look at the concept of love, and I look at the concept of evil, and I don’t think that either of them were part of my standards. I think accomplishments, numerical and statistical measurements of accomplishment — I had success or failure, as opposed to love and evil.”

Greene was, at any rate, fearless. He says he had an early meeting with Congressman Bob Brady, who told him, “I want the entry-level jobs. I always get the entry-level jobs.” Greene didn’t even know what Brady was talking about at first. But he quickly caught on to what was happening — patronage — and pressed his only point of power: He owed the political culture nothing.

One of his first tasks in his first month in Philly, when he was still commuting back to Detroit three days a week, was to address public housing in Spring Garden — nearly 100 rowhomes scattered around the neighborhood; they were a thorn in the area’s gentrification. The local civic association wanted control of PHA properties. So did Vince Fumo, who owned a mansion at 22nd and Green. So did council president John Street, whose district it was. Rendell just wanted the problem to go away.

Greene had to hit the ground running. At his first Spring Garden community meeting, he was sworn at in at least two languages: The Latinos and Puerto Ricans who lived in PHA houses were sure they’d be forced out of the neighborhood. There would be many more meetings, where Greene would preach his gospel over and over: The tenants would be moved while their homes were rehabbed, then brought back. They were not being pushed out.

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  • KJ

    I’m sorry, but Carl Greene gets no sympathy here! As a former Executive at PHA, I witness his abusive behavior towards too many employees up front and personally–The reprisals, dismissals, the tirades (particularly after his night out drinking),the unwanted solicitations, and vindictive behavior that he exhibited was very real for both male and female employees; Carl Greene fostered a culture of fear at PHA, period! The whisking off, or abduction (yes, I said abduction) of that Assist General Manager was indicative of how Carl Green ran a psycho-ops and his intent to induced compliance to even his personal pleasures; There are countless other women who experienced Carl’s psychotic behavior. I was particularly perturbed by his menacing treatment of anyone he perceived as standing in the way of his desires, his exploits! And, exploit he did…whether married or single, Carl would let no man, nothing, stand in his way! So, what do you know…the Real Carl, a tyrant, sexual predator, manipulator and Ego maniac, finally got in his own way! This man has a very dark and troubling side; I only wish that he had been stopped sooner and sought treatment–like before he came to Philadelphia! Rendell, Street, the…

  • Donna

    There is a very simple explanation for the riddle of Carl Green. He is a sociopath. Hollywood tells us that a sociopath is a serial killer. The truth is, most sociopaths never kill anyone. And one expert says that 1% of the general population are sociopaths, but 3% of corporate executives are sociopaths.

    A sociopath is a person with no heart, no conscience and no remorse. Green exhibits classic signs of this personality disorder: Egocentricity and grandiosity. Rage when challenged. Manipulation. Sexual aggression. Belief that the rules do not apply to him. Financial problems. Blaming others for anything that goes wrong. Sociopaths in business frequently bring organizations down. That’s what Green has done.

    I have written extensively about this case in the Lovefraud Blog. People need to be aware of this personality disorder – especially when they’re considering a candidate for a position of power and responsibility.

  • Betty

    Come drive around Southwest Center City and you’ll have no problem picking out the PHA houses. They’re the ones in disrepair housing drug dealers and dealers. No sympathy for Greene at all. He sat in his gated community at Naval Square while inflicting pestilence on the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Betty

    Come drive around Southwest Center City and you’ll have no problem picking out the PHA houses. They’re the ones in disrepair housing drug dealers and dealers. No sympathy for Greene at all. He sat in his gated community at Naval Square while inflicting pestilence on the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Norm

    Unfortunately Carl Green suffers from the same problem that many great leaders suffer from. Absolute power. Carl Green proved himself to be an effective leader in turning around the housing authority. This was such a monumental task that he became a trusted leader who was beyond question. It was at this point when the traits of many great leaders emerged. These traits are sociopathy and narcissism. The same internal drivers that are responsible for his great abilities are also at the root of his downfall. The old saying still rings true, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!” All public leaders need to learn from this and make certain that there are checks, balances and transparancy in all business practices.