Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said Wednesday that Carl R. Greene's reputation for sexual harassment and tirades against employees was well-known throughout the public housing world.
"I'm not surprised," Jackson said of the Philadelphia Housing Authority director he once mentored but later came to battle in courts of law and politics. "Everyone knew. . . . It was just a matter of time before he imploded and it became public knowledge."
Jackson said he was shocked that Greene allegedly settled four sexual harassment claims without notifying the PHA board.
"That's amazing," Jackson said in an interview. "And he's still working there? . . . That's highly unusual that you settle a case, especially a sexual harassment case, without the board knowing or approving. That's just very arrogant on Carl's part."
It might not even be legal, added Jackson, who was HUD secretary from 2004 to 2008 and ran public housing agencies in Dallas, St. Louis, and Washington. The use of federal funds for insurance is subject to board approval, Jackson said.
Jackson and Greene clashed in 2007, after the HUD secretary tried to wrest greater control of PHA finances, asserting that Greene refused to build enough public housing for the handicapped. Greene went on the offensive, suing HUD and alleging that Jackson was retaliating because Greene refused to sell property to the music producer and developer Kenny Gamble.
A federal judge later ruled for HUD, that Jackson did not treat Philadelphia differently than other local housing agencies. Pennsylvania's U.S. senators, however, backed Greene, helped restore PHA's financial status, and criticized Jackson. Jackson, dogged by unrelated allegations of HUD cronyism and favoritism, soon resigned.
Greene was unavailable Wednesday. At the time, he said of Jackson: "We had a wonderful relationship. But he became a man of immense power who wanted to take care of the socially elite."
Jackson, who directs a public policy center at Hampton University in Virginia, said he did not know of Greene's most recent troubles until contacted by The Inquirer. Jackson has known Greene since the late 1980s, when he hired him as an accountant at the District of Columbia housing agency.
"There's a Carl Greene I like who's very charming . . . a tremendous human being, and then there's the Carl Greene that's extremely vicious and vindictive," Jackson said.
Greene became public housing chief in Detroit in 1995. One employee sued for sexual harassment, and another alleged that he pressured him to participate in political events and solicit donations from contractors seeking agency business.
To lure Greene to Philadelphia in 1998, the city offered to guarantee his salary regardless of the outcome of the Detroit lawsuits. Greene accepted.
"I was baffled when he was hired in Philadelphia," Jackson said. "I wouldn't think anyone would hire a person who has been accused of sexual harassment."
Years later, when he became HUD chief, Jackson was still hearing complaints that Greene did not seem accountable to anyone. But beyond issuing audits, HUD officials lacked the authority to act, Jackson said.
"He consistently talked about how he was more powerful than the board," Jackson said.