The board of the Philadelphia Housing Authority voted this afternoon to put embattled director Carl Greene on paid leave as the agency investigates sexual harassment and other complaints against him.

KYW’s Mike Dunn reports that Greene, until today one of the most powerful figures in the city, controlled hundreds of millions of dollars in federal housing funds.

The furor over Greene (right) first began when his own luxury condominium apartment went into foreclosure (previous story), then grew by leaps and bounds amid word of at least four sexual misconduct claims by female workers (related story).

The calls for his ouster grew to a crescendo this week, including from Mayor Nutter (related story), and this from Zack Stalberg of the political watchdog group Committee of 70:

“I think the board has no choice but to ask for his resignation or to fire him.”

Also today, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it was beginning its own probe of the PHA’s management and finances (see related story).

>> Read the HUD letter to PHA (pdf format)

Greene was already on a two-week leave of absence prior to today’s board decision.  His attorney informed the board today that Greene is undergoing “diagnosis” out of state for an unspecified medical condition and would not be present at the board meeting — potentially laying the groundwork for a challenge to any dismissal of Greene that may be forthcoming.

Greene will continue to draw his $306,000 annual salary while the PHA investigation proceeds.

Two resolutions were approved by the board this afternoon: one authorizes the PHA to conduct its own investigation and places Greene on paid leave pending the outcome of that probe.  A second authorized the PHA to conduct sexual harassment sensitivity training for all PHA employees.

One other issue facing Greene is whether he pressured contractors and staffers for donations to a favored nonprofit organization. And another name surfacing in that issue is currently a top official in the Nutter administration.

Melanie Johnson is currently the mayor’s City Representative, but for five years she worked in the communications office of PHA. She says she was on a committee that was asked to solicit donations to a nonprofit affiliated with PHA — donations from vendors who depended on PHA for business.

Johnson says this raised a red flag at the time:

“I believe at that time I had a concern whether it was appropriate to solicit funds from people doing business with PHA.”

Johnson says the committee voiced those concerns and asked for a legal opinion, and that the solicitations never happened.

A spokesman for the mayor says Nutter retains full confidence in Johnson and that she will continue as City Representative.

KYW’s Pat Loeb reports Carl Greene was not available for comment on the Board’s actions and his attorney says he will not be for at least three weeks.  Greene is said to be undergoing medical treatment.

Attorney Clifford Haines refused to disclose any details of the medical treatment he says Greene is receiving. He says he only informed the board about it in case they were considering firing Greene:

“It wouldn’t be prudent for the board to make a decision to terminate or dismiss an employee while they’re on medical leave.”

Haines questioned whether the Board has the authority to investigate the sexual harassment claims against Greene. He declined to discuss those claims, saying he wasn’t involved in the four suits against Greene that reportedly were settled for some $900-thousand without the board’s knowledge.  As to who will pay for Haines’ services, he says Greene will, if necessary,  but PHA may be obligated to do so.

(Photo from PHA web site)