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Pa. panel finds 'pattern' that Greene sexually harassed PHA employees

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ruled Tuesday that there was probable cause that Elizabeth Helm was sexually harassed by then-Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl R. Greene.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ruled Tuesday that there was probable cause that Elizabeth Helm was sexually harassed by then-Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl R. Greene.

In the first outside review of his behavior, the agency also concluded that Greene, 54, "engaged in a pattern and practice of sexually harassing conduct" toward female employees "throughout the course of his employment."

In addition to examining the charges made by Helm, 29, investigators probed previous complaints by six women employed from 1999 to 2008. The 35-page report is a chronology of Greene's misconduct going back nearly to the time of his hiring in 1998.

In the other six instances of sexual harassment allegations, three women settled their cases for $648,000. Two were told by PHA lawyers that their claims were unsubstantiated. And one, now a deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania, resigned in 2001 because she viewed legal action as "futile."

In April, Helm filed her sexual harassment complaint against Greene with both the Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When the complaints became public four months later, the allegations - coupled with revelations of previous secret settlements of sexual harassment complaints - cost Greene his job. The PHA board fired him on Sept. 23.

In its report, the Human Relations Commission describes the Housing Authority as a place that intentionally kept Greene's behavior under wraps.

The report documented how for years, outside lawyers and senior staff routinely withheld from the PHA board information about sexual harassment complaints. Such action violated the authority's bylaws, the commission said.

At the same time, the report chided the PHA chairman, former Mayor John F. Street, as failing to provide proper oversight of Greene. Greene joined PHA after facing similar sexual harassment charges in his previous job with the Detroit Housing Authority.

The Human Relations Commission recommended that Helm be reinstated as an interior designer, paid back wages, and reimbursed for any expenses. If she rejects that offer, the agency said, PHA will pay her three years' salary.

A meeting to resolve the matter is scheduled for Dec. 30.

John M. Elliott, an attorney for Helm, called the report "a full and thoughtful review." He said the commission outlined in "unprecedented detail" not only Greene's "sexual misconduct, but the sad reality that the board failed in its oversight of Greene."

Greene's attorney, Clifford Haines, could not be reached for comment.

"I certainly am not surprised at the fundamental finding," Street wrote in an e-mail. "As we all know, Mr. Greene had a problem for which everyone at the agency will pay in one way or another. It is so sad and unfortunate that otherwise good employees had to endure the humiliation of this bad behavior." He added that "the board is working with all our partners and staff to make sure such a thing never happens again."

Nichole Tillman, a PHA spokeswoman, said the Housing Authority had received the report "and is currently reviewing it."

Greene is suing both the PHA board and Street for terminating him. He charges Street personally with defaming his character.

Helm began working at PHA on Feb. 9, 2009, as a "graduate architect" in the design department. She was warned early on by a coworker that she should watch herself around Greene, as he had many harassment complaints against him. The woman told Helm she was his type. "He likes them young," the older woman said.

Helm had to report directly to Greene "nearly every business day," the report said. No other member of the design team was required to report to him on such a regular basis. The report said Greene made inappropriate remarks about Helm's appearance and personal life. At least once a month, Greene insisted that Helm and another young female colleague join him for dinner and drinks. Given that he was the senior executive at the agency, the report said, the women felt they had no alternative.

He also took them to after-work events and functions, referring to them as his "arm candy."

The report said Greene often called Helm late at night and once told her, "I am more important than anyone else in your life. You better call me back."

While she was on vacation in Maine, Greene ordered her to ship him a case of lobsters at her expense, the report said.

After Helm's department was transferred to another office building in South Philadelphia, Greene had her relocated to an office next to his at PHA's headquarters at 12 S. 23d St.

The report said that on April 12, 2010, Greene told Helm she needed to meet him for drinks at the Prime Rib restaurant to discuss a promotion. It was during that meal and afterward that Helm claimed Greene made sexual advances, trying to kiss and grab her.

Agitated by the incident, she sought a leave with pay. PHA failed to respond to her request and on May 14, having exhausted her vacation and sick leave, Helm was discharged.