The ceremonial ribbon and the big scissors were ready. The television cameras were in position. The politicians were assembled.

But someone was missing from the ceremony Thursday marking the Philadelphia Housing Authority's final rowhouse renovation with federal stimulus money. He was the man on everyone's minds: Carl R. Greene.

For the first time in 12 years, Greene was not center-stage at a PHA ribbon-cutting. The board fired the agency's executive director last September after discovering he had secretly paid out $640,000 to settle three sexual harassment complaints.

However, PHA's chairman, former Mayor John F. Street, was there. And he didn't dance around Greene's absence.

Right off the bat, Street thanked him "in absentia" for the work he did to obtain federal funding to renovate some of the agency's vast inventory of vacant properties. Since May 2009, PHA has upgraded 340 properties with $31.4 million in stimulus money, finishing the final house at 1720 W. Diamond Street in North Philadelphia this week.

But attention quickly shifted away from Greene when another board member, octogenarian resident leader Nellie Reynolds, took to the podium and acknowledged "the new sheriff on the street": interim executive director Michael P. Kelly.

Kelly was marking his fourth day on the job. Named the head of PHA for the next six months to a year, he comes from New York City by way of the Washington housing authority.

He said one of his first tasks will be to look at the agency's "transparency and accountability" - in other words, studying how funds were spent in the past and how budget decisions will be made in the future.

"If there are areas we need to improve, we need to be truthful about it and take corrective action," Kelly told reporters after the ribbon-cutting.

During his tenure at the PHA helm, Greene is credited with renovating or building 7,000 units of housing by raising $1.7 billion in private and public funds.

But he was an autocratic boss who created a culture of fear within the nation's fourth largest housing agency. He spent money lavishly on nonhousing projects and staff events, including retreats in the mountains and parties.

Kelly said one of his first tasks will be to boost morale by restoring respect among both workers and clients.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com.