LAST AUGUST, a week before former Philadelphia Housing Authority chief Carl Greene disappeared for five days after the revelation that he was facing foreclosure, Housing and Urban Development officials showed up to inspect some of PHA's scattered-site properties that had been rehabbed with federal stimulus money.
The audit by HUD's inspector general focused on a portion of the $126.5 million in Recovery Act funds PHA received in 2009. The report, released this week, highlighted the $27.4 million PHA spent on scattered-site housing repairs and found that the agency lacked supporting documentation of how funds had been spent and had failed to comply with local codes and contract requirements. The report also found that PHA had made unnecessary payments to outside attorneys who impeded the audit's progress. All of these findings raise questions about the rest of PHA's recovery spending.
This is not the first scathing audit or report on PHA. We're sure it won't be the last.
In fact, on Tuesday, a former PHA liaison to a nonprofit with PHA ties filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit contending that Tenant Suppport Services Inc. head Asia Coney, whom Greene appointed, misappropriated thousands of dollars of that nonprofit's money and that aides were raiding payroll accounts and even the Toys for Tots Christmas program.
These reports dredge up familiar feelings of outrage and despair over what appears to be an ever-unfolding disaster of public housing, public money and public management.
Oddly, these blistering reports also elicit familiar reactions from those remaining in the Greene camp: that he was a visionary who did great work at PHA. Former Mayor John Street, who as chairman of the PHA board presided over the Greene-induced train wreck, dismissed the current audit by claiming that HUD's inspector general had a long-standing bias against PHA. Greene's lawyer said the HUD criticism cannot undo the "spectacular success story" of PHA under Greene.
Well, in fact, yes it does. Greene, PHA and its board were complicit in building a myth of success that seems destined to get rewritten over time. And it's telling that HUD's audit cited one PHA attorney demanding to know why HUD was conducting an audit, since PHA had been featured on national television for its "exceptional work."