Housing Authority chief Kelly resigns

: Michael P. Kelly, center, is resigning as the administrative receiver of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.—TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Michael P. Kelly, administrative receiver of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, resigned Friday, which he said is due to family responsibilities.

“Franky, I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Kelly told the Tribune Friday afternoon. “Believe me, it has nothing to do with politics, or with the public officials and the citizens of Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter has been very gracious, and I’ve had positive experiences with city council. I’m thankful for my time here in Philadelphia, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. The Tribune has been especially gracious and fair with us, and I really appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the community.”

Pressed on the reason for his resignation, Kelly said he won’t elaborate, but promises more information next week.

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“It really was a personal, painful decision for family reasons,” he said. “I know that sounds like a typical politician’s line, but it happens to be true.”

Karen Newton-Cole of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted Kelly’s resignation Friday during the monthly board meeting.

Additionally, HUD announced that Estelle Richman, a senior adviser to the HUD secretary, would replace Cole and return to her role as the one-person authority board commissioner and receiver. Richman served as the PHA board when HUD took control over the agency last year.

“It has been my pleasure to serve you as the commissioner of the Philadelphia Housing Authority,” Cole said.

Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s current director of audit and compliance, was appointed by Cole to be the provisional executive director of PHA. Janea Jordan will have Jeremiah’s position.

“We are going to launch a national search in terms of identifying an executive director,” Cole said.  

While at the helm of PHA, Kelly was credited for many sweeping reforms. He re-established the Office of General Counsel — which manages PHA’s legal affairs, and he created the Office of Internal Audit and Compliance to ensure business transitions were compliant.

Kelly headed PHA’s Transition Plan — which aims to establish a culture of respect, accountability and transparency at the agency. A zero tolerance policy was instituted, and employees were held to new ethic policies and procedures.

Under Kelly, PHA reached a new contract agreement with Building and Construction Trades Council regarding workers pensions. He is also given credit to his ability to maintain focus and provide uninterrupted service at PHA during the Greene controversy.

In 2008, accusations of sexual harassment against PHA director Carl Greene surfaced. Greene was fired in September 2010 after the board of directors discovered that Greene used approximately $900,000 of federal funding for multiple harassment settlements.

Using his architecture, urban planning and 30-year housing authority experience from other cities like San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., Kelly arrived to PHA in December of 2010 in the midst of the internal turmoil.

As the interim executive director, Kelly was on loan to PHA from the New York City Housing Authority, based on agreements that he serve both roles while maintaining duties as general manger of NYCHA. It wasn’t until August 2011 that Kelly was named permanent executive director at PHA.

HUD asked the five-member PHA board to quit, thus gaining control of the agency. Philadelphia City Council member Jannie Blackwell, Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding, Debra Brady, wife of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.), tenant leader Nellie Reynolds, and former Philadelphia mayor John Street eventually stepped down from the board.

“Mr. Kelly came to PHA at a very difficult time and he immediately focused on getting back to basics in property management and resident services and making PHA accountable and transparent in business practices,” Richman said in a press release. “We will miss his energy and his ability to connect with the community.”

“I do love this work,” Kelly said. “I do love this housing authority. I do love the residents that I have been honored to serve. I love the colleagues that I had an honor to serve with.”

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