The federal trial of ousted housing director Carl Greene has again been halted – with testimony expected to resume Friday.
Greene was expected to take the stand Wednesday in a second day of testimony, this time under cross examination. However, shortly before 10 a.m., U.S. Judge Ronald Buckwalter announced that the court would recess until Friday.
The reason for the recess was unclear.
Greene’s attorney, Clifford Haines, when approached by reporters Wednesday morning, declined to discuss the reasons for the recess and would only say that he was “leaving the building.” The trial, which started last week, was expected to conclude Friday. It was unclear Wednesday whether that timeline still held firm.
In an earlier recess, called Monday, an attorney connected to the case said both sides were trying to reach a settlement. However, the case resumed as scheduled.
Greene is seeking more than $1 million from the Philadelphia Housing Authority, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated in 2010 after news broke of a series of sexual harassment suits against him had been kept from the board. He was fired in September 2010 for allegedly “abandoning his duties” as executive director. He has sought $743,000 in back pay and additional damages.
Much of the trial has centered on the bad blood between Greene and former Mayor John F. Street.
In testimony Tuesday, Greene spoke out for the first time about the board members who voted to fire him.
“It was really an absentee board,” Greene said. “Each board member had their own interests.”
The board, which at the time was made up of Street, who served as chairman, and members Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell; Debra Brady, wife of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady; Patrick Eiding, head of the local AFL-CIO and Philadelphia Housing Authority resident Nellie Reynolds, fired Greene on Sept. 23, 2010.
Aside from interviews shortly after his dismissal, it was the first time Greene has spoken publicly about the circumstances surrounding his firing in August 2010.
“I haven’t had the chance to talk about this before,” he told the judge, adding that he had been “sitting on the sofa watching everyone else talk about me” for the last two years.
And, it was the first time he’s given his perspective of the people who dismissed him.
In an interview at the time, Greene denied allegations of sexual harassment and financial misconduct in his operation of the housing authority.
In lengthy, sometimes rambling testimony, Greene gave Buckwalter thumbnail sketches of each of the board members.
His depiction of Street was the most scathing, portraying the former mayor as a man who tried to use his position to secure a job for his son, attorney Sharif Street, and as a platform to maintain a position in city politics after he left the mayor’s office.
“I never trusted him,” Greene said, testifying that he and Street had an “unhealthy” relationship.
Greene said Street was looking for a position that would allow him to maintain his political influence.
“It created a certain dynamic that wasn’t helpful for me,” Greene said.
In addition, Street pressed Greene to force PHA to hire an board assistant. Greene said he didn’t approve of hiring the assistant because Street spent a maximum of six hours a month on agency business.
“I felt it was a violation of my duty to protect the assets of PHA,” Greene said.
Greene felt trapped between Street and Nutter, telling the judge that Street often “degraded and berated the role of Mayor Nutter.”
After the news broke that Greene owed back taxes and was behind on his mortgage payments, Street and Greene stopped speaking.
“I never spoke to John Street after Aug. 23,” Greene said.
As for the other board members, Greene said he had the most cordial relationship with Blackwell, though her primary concerns as a board members revolved around her personal efforts to help individuals in terms of housing or jobs, or her advocacy for the homeless. She had little influence on the day to day operations of the PHA.
“She was the chief person who was there for me,” Greene said, adding that the two still talk from time to time.
Brady was largely unconcerned about agency business, he said, except where it affected contracts with her employer, who had a contract with the PHA.
“It was a Philadelphia-style deal. It wasn’t something that was written down anywhere,” said Greene. “It was part of the political process here in Philadelphia.”
Otherwise, she rarely attended meetings, he said, estimating maybe once a year.
Eiding’s only concern was PHA’s interactions with the unions, Greene said, noting, “He was not keeping two hats.”
Reynolds was typically concerned only with conditions in the development that she lived in, or if matters affected her son or daughter, both of whom worked for the authority.
“She was very narrow in her interests,” Greene said. “Her interests were her car, her driver, her development and her family.”
The 56 year-old Greene also revealed a great deal about himself, telling Buckwalter about his childhood, raised by a single mother in Washington D.C.’s public housing projects where he was the seventh of eight children, the first in his family to graduate from college. Greene’s left arm was paralyzed while playing high school football.
Since then he’s been on painkillers and anti-depressants. Greene now lives in Decatur, Ga. He continues to be unemployed, and said his termination and the circumstances surrounding it left him feeling “abandoned and isolated.”
As the scandal at PHA unfolded, Greene went into seclusion – checking into a mental health facility in August 2010.
“Things were catching up with me and I didn’t have any support,” he said. “I felt a personal sense of collapse.”