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?


This was odd — the PHA financial whiz who was being paid more than 300 grand a year in financial trouble? It got odder: In the days after the story appeared in the Inquirer, Greene suddenly stopped coming to work. The PHA board couldn’t get in touch with him, nor could his PHA spokesman.

A few days later, Greene emerged to announce that he was taking a break from PHA and to offer, via the Inquirer, “my most humble apologies to the world.”

His problems got worse the following week: It came to light that PHA insurers had agreed to settle a sexual harassment suit against him for $250,000. Then, a few days after that, we learned that PHA had agreed to settle three other sexual harassment suits against him, without the board’s knowledge, for a grand total of almost a million dollars. Greene was toast. On September 23rd, the PHA board — led by former mayor John Street — fired him.

When someone close to him — as close, at any rate, as Carl Greene would allow anyone — was finally able to get him on the phone at his townhouse, Greene was largely incoherent, not making sense at all. The friend thought that everything, including 12 years of nonstop pressure to reform the authority, had caught up to Greene and that he was cracking up. His lawyer, John Esty, soon escorted Greene to an inpatient treatment facility in Maryland.

It is really not all that unusual, of course, for men of some accomplishment to be exposed for being personal train wrecks. We love discovering the bad behavior, even as we find the extremes residing in the same person stupefying.

A PHA executive who worked closely with Greene says that he was “a revelation.” But not in the good sense: “Here’s a guy I’m watching up close every day, doing great things, but being a bastard at the same time. In my view of the world, a guy doing great things would be an equally great guy behind the scenes.”

But is that ever the case? Not here, it seems, not by a long shot. But like any downfall, it’s not so simple — trouble had been building for a long, long time.

If you first take a look at what Greene confronted coming in as the savior of our public housing — it’s really pretty astounding, the challenge he took on, when he arrived in town.