The first task of the Philadelphia Housing Authority's board after the firing of Executive Director Carl R. Greene is likely to expose political divisions not only among commissioners, but also between the agency and City Hall.
The five-member board must select an interim replacement for Greene, who was fired Thursday for keeping commissioners in the dark about secret payouts to settle sexual-harassment complaints.
Moments after removing Greene by a 4-1 vote, commissioners began interviewing six candidates to replace him for three to six months. Once that spot is filled, the board will launch a national search for a permanent replacement.
PHA has been told by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the next director has to rise above politics and be acceptable not only to the commissioners but to Mayor Nutter as well, according to sources familiar with discussions.
PHA Chairman John F. Street, the former mayor, said he favored his former secretary of housing, Kevin Hanna. "He had the strongest background and resumé," Street said.
But political observers say Hanna is such a clear ally of Street that his candidacy is not likely to go over well with Nutter, who has publicly clashed with his predecessor over the handling of the authority. Nutter appoints two of the agency's board members, which gives him a say in the decision.
This is not the first time Street has tried to get Hanna into the PHA. In 2004, as mayor, he appointed Hanna to the board, expecting him to eventually become chairman. But the appointment was blocked by another housing commissioner, City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell. Street then named himself to the board and eventually became chairman.
In an interview Friday, Blackwell would say of Hanna only that "he made a good presentation" before the board.
Street, for his part, said the selection of an interim director was still up in the air.
"We had some really good people in for interviews," he said, "but not a lot of them knew a lot about public housing."
A second round of interviews is set for Oct. 4.
Hanna, who runs a Philadelphia urban and economic-development consulting firm, could not be reached for comment. As housing chief for Street, he oversaw the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, a much-vaunted project to eliminate blight that fell short of goals. Nutter put the initiative on hold while his administration untangled a complicated financial problem involving bond funding.
Among housing authorities, the Philadelphia agency is unusual in that it does not fall under the control of the mayor. For that reason, housing experts and political observers say, Hanna may not be acceptable to Nutter. The next executive director, those observers said, needs to bridge the gulf between the agency and the city.
Because of Greene's independent and autocratic style, PHA did not integrate its agenda with those of other city housing agencies and nonprofit housing groups. PHA is a hybrid agency, chartered by the state, funded by the federal government but serving the city of Philadelphia.
The next director "has to have an ability to coordinate and work with other outside actors in housing and community development," said Rick Sauer, director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.
The candidate who was an early front-runner for the job, former Managing Director Phil Goldsmith, said Friday it was doubtful he would take the job if offered it. He said he was enjoying life too much to leap into the "PHA inferno."
The other candidates interviewed for the job were:
Laura Weinbaum, director of public policy for nine years at Project HOME, a nonprofit offering services and housing to the homeless.
Seth Shapiro, president of the Nauset Group, a real estate development consulting firm, and former vice president of operations for Westrum Development.
Leon King 2d, the former commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System.
Blane Fitzgerald Stoddart, president of BFW Group, a construction-management and green-building-services firm.