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PHA board nominees headed to final vote

By Jennifer Lin

By Jennifer Lin

In a first pass at approving a new board for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, City Council on Wednesday voted out of committee all nine nominees, with a final vote expected Jan. 24.

In a hearing before Council's Committee of the Whole, nominees faced Council questions and comments after reading a brief statement.

Only one candidate - the city's chief integrity officer, Joan Markman - appears to face any resistance.

Councilwoman Marian Tasco, said the other nominees have deeper experience working in the community in general, or with PHA residents in particular. Markman "believes she brings a certain fiscal oversight," Tasco said.

But she questioned whether Markman understands the issues facing public housing residents and whether she would "deal with them in a way that is compassionate and not look at them from a prosecutorial way."

Prior to joining the Nutter administration, Markman worked for 20 years as a federal prosecutor.

PHA is currently under the control of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will not return to local control until after a new board is appointed.

The prior board was pressured to resign in March 2011 after the termination of executive director Carl R. Greene, who had settled four sexual harassment complaints without telling commissioners.

As part of reforms for the housing authority, state legislators expanded the size of the board from five to nine members, and gave the mayor's office the authority to nominate commissioners, with council's approval.

According to four people familiar with the nomination process, Council President Darrell L. Clarke has privately expressed reservations about Markman.

Clarke declined to comment on whether he would support Markman on a final vote (which could be taken as early as Jan. 24), or whether he had any issues with her.

"I don't ever talk about what I'm going to do as it relates to a vote, bill, resolution or nominee until I actually take a vote," he said.

Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, a former PHA commissioner, said Markman had as "federal-agent type" background. At PHA, she said, "People are tired of feeling beset upon by the feds."

PHA's interim executive director Kelvin Jeremiah endorses Markman. "A lot of issues that resulted in the prior board's removal had to do with ethics," he said. "PHA didn't go into HUD receivership because of fiscal mismanagement, but for ethical mismanagement."

In addition to Markman, the other candidates are: Lynette Brown-Sow, Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Rev. Leslie Callahan, Nelson Diaz, Shellie Jackson, Kenneth A. Murphy, Vernell Tate and Herbert Wetzel.