Yesterday, Dr. Liane Leedom wrote that “false beliefs about sociopaths are very dangerous.” She quoted a judge who said:
“Well I tell you, the world is full of productive sociopaths. Some of them hold high public office. Some of them are lawyers. It could be that a couple of them are judges, and sociopathy by itself is not necessarily a dangerous condition. It can be productive. I think it was Clarence Darrow who commented on that…”
Today I’d like to present a case to prove her point.
Over the last 10 days, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been reporting about Carl Greene, the executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA).
The agency Green heads is the city’s biggest landlord, providing housing to 81,000 low-income residents. The PHA has a budget of $345 million per year, funded by the federal government, and 1,150 employees.
Greene, who was hired in 1998, currently earns $306,000 per year. But 10 days ago, it was revealed that his $615,000 townhouse was in foreclosure, and he owed the IRS $52,000 in back taxes.
And, one of his former employees has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. The woman says Greene promised her a promotion, if she submitted to his sexual advances.
Here’s where the “productive sociopath” comes in.
Before Greene was hired, the PHA had a history of waste, fraud and abuse. Greene turned the agency around, and it’s now considered to be a major success. Public housing high rises—magnets for drugs and crime—have been demolished and replaced by townhouses. Complaints about Section 8 housing have disappeared.
But here’s what else has been going on during Greene’s tenure:
• Since 2004, six women have filed complaints against Greene with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging sexual harassment, verbal abuse, retaliation, and sex discrimination. (Greene denies them.)
• Greene spent $1 million over the last two years for outside public relations experts, even though the agency has an in-house spokesperson.
• Four times a year, for the last several years, the PHA staff, outside lawyers and consultants were expected to pay up to $150 each for dinners at expensive restaurants in honor of Greene. According to the Inquirer,
There was an annual party to celebrate Greene’s birthday, one to mark his anniversary with the agency, another to laud his accomplishments, and, at Christmas, a breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Those gatherings were small compared with the bash PHA put together for Greene’s 10th anniversary on April 11, 2008. Hundreds of vendors, attorneys and “friend[s] of PHA” received letters asking them to donate $1,000 to $5,000 to Tenant Support Services Inc., a PHA nonprofit on which Greene has been a board member.
• In 2002, an audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development described Greene as a “demanding supervisor” who drove “a number of executive personnel” to quit.
• Employees say he’s created a culture of “fear and intimidation” at the PHA.
What’s really strange about this case is how, back in 1998, Ed Rendell, then mayor of Philadelphia and now governor of Pennsylvania, worked so hard to hire Carl Greene. At the time, Greene was head of the Detroit Housing Commission, and one of his employees had accused him of sexual harassment. At first Greene turned down the Philadelphia job, but then accepted it. According to the Inquirer, he signed a three-year contract with an amazing stipulation:
If he were found liable of sexual harassment in Detroit, PHA could fire him – but would still have to pay the balance of his contract, then worth $160,000 a year.
“One simple reason,” Rendell said last week, when asked about that clause. “When I took over as chair of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, it was perhaps the worst public-housing authority in the nation. . . . I don’t think it’s an understatement to say now that PHA is the best in the nation.”
The transformation is due to Greene, whose work “has been stunning,” Rendell said. “He has done more to improve the lives of poor Philadelphians than anyone I know.”
Money problems, sexual harassment, self-promotion, and a management style based on bullying—Carl Greene sounds like a classic sociopath. Here’s what an Inquirer columnist wrote about him:
The rap on Greene was, and is, that he’s an effective egomaniac. A vicious visionary, a determined developer, a brutal boss … Politicians and advocates learned to accommodate the two Carls because he controlled zillions in federal money and the fate of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
In other words, according to his supporters, Carl Greene was getting the job done. If a few folks got steamrolled in the process, well, that was just collateral damage that they really didn’t want to know about.
When all these troubles came to light, what did Greene do? First, he disappeared—for several days, no one knew where he was. When he did talk to the media, he apologized for his personal failings.
He also said, “People with bloody daggers are doing whatever they can to finish me off.”
In 2003, PHA planned to solicit big contractors on Philly.com.