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 PHA board fired the agency's executive director in September after discovering he had secretly paid out $640,000 to settle three sexual-harassment complaints.

However, the board 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 federal stimulus money, finishing the final house, at 1720 W. Diamond St. in North Philadelphia, this week.

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

Kelly was marking his fourth day on the job. Named 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 would be to look at the agency's "transparency and accountability" - in other words, studying how money has been spent and how budget decisions will be made.

"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 was credited with renovating or building 7,000 housing units by raising $1.7 billion in private and public funding.

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 parties and retreats in the mountains.

Kelly said he also would try to boost morale by restoring respect among workers and clients.

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

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