In the latest example of powerful public officials abusing their offices, we have Carl R. Greene, executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Greene is accused of groping Elizabeth Helm, an interior designer, at a Center City restaurant while they were discussing her promotion. Greene has been suspended for 30 days while PHA board members try to learn why they were not told of three earlier harassment claims involving Greene in prior employment which were settled confidentially for $98,000, $200,000 and $350,000 according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Greene is said to be undergoing medical care for “stress.” Helm is now harassing the taxpayers of Philadelphia by adding $25,000 per day to her original $300,000 demand while the PHA balks at signing a settlement agreement. You didn’t think Mr. Greene would be held accountable for his actions, did you?
Under the federal anti-harassment law known as Title VII (the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, only the employer is deemed liable for acts of harassment committed by those whom it employs. The perpetrator cannot be sued. Consequently, it is the taxpayers who pay to settle the claims arising from public officials’ indiscretions while the officials are permitted to repeat their indiscretions elsewhere or seek medical care for “stress.” In Mr. Greene’s case, nearly a million dollars of public funds will have been wasted because he can’t keep his hands to himself. Think of the public parks that could have been built, the emergency equipment purchased or roads paved with that money! While insurance may cover some of the loss, government entities usually have large taxpayer-funded primary coverage.
In Ms. Helms’ case, she may be able to sue Greene personally for assault and battery because of the physical contact. With a $300,000 annual salary, Greene should be hit where it hurts. However, so far, it seems Ms. Helms is content to hold the City and its taxpayers hostage. And while Ms. Helms did not deserve to be groped and is deserving of some compensation under the law, her $25,000/day demand shows she’s all about the money. Ms. Helms and her attorney will ultimately receive a lucrative settlement. Mr. Greene will move on to some other six-figure employment or may even stay where he is protected by his politically connected friends. The City of Philadelphia taxpayers are the real victims.
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