PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The local Philadelphia Housing Authority board is ceding its power to the federal government for a year.
The outgoing PHA board chairman John Street had resisted the public call to resign for close to a week. However, following a four-hour executive session in private on Friday, he came out to say the board would temporarily delegate power, duty, and authority for the management of PHA to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“Upon our resignations, which we have all written, surrender control of this authority to the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Street announced.
“Philadelphia became the face of public housing in some unfortunate ways. Everybody in Washington has pictures of Carl Greene with belly dancers. It became a soundbite that was very difficult to overcome,” Street said.
Standing next to the former mayor was HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, who pushed for the resignations.
“HUD will now appoint an interim director as the receiver to ensure a smooth transition to the next chapter of the Philadelphia Housing Authority,” Sims said.
Estelle Richman, HUD’s Chief Operating Officer, will be the receiver, in effect the PHA board, for one year. Coincidentally, she spent time as city managing director during the Street administration.
“Once the Philadelphia Housing Authority is again on sound footing, hopefully in one year, HUD will work with the city to restore Philadelphia Housing Authority to local control under a new board,” Sims said.
It would be a brand new PHA board, and when asked if he had any interest in returning, Street said he would not again serve on the board.
It was Mr. Sims who, just over a week ago, was the one who informed Street and the four other PHA commissioners that the agency would recover more quickly if they cleaned house.
HUD wanted to clear the decks because the board was in place during the time in which former executive director Carl Greene allegedly settled sexual harassment lawsuits against himself in secret.
There are several federal probes and audits under way. Earlier this week, one PHA board member, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, quit saying she wanted to be “part of the solution, not part of the problem, or perceived to be part of the problem.”
Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio