Ex-housing official sues Philadelphia newspapers

AP News
Posted: Sep 20, 2011 4:38 PM
Ex-housing official sues Philadelphia newspapers

A former housing authority chief who was fired after allegations surfaced that he used public money to settle sexual harassment complaints has filed a libel suit against the city's two largest daily newspapers, accusing them of "abusive muckraking attacks" designed to sell newspapers.

Former city housing director Carl Greene's lawsuit charges that The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News published 246 articles about him in a one-year period, amounting to an "onslaught" of negative coverage that damaged his reputation.

The coverage began with news last year that Greene's mortgage was in arrears and continued through reports the agency was using $900,000 in taxpayer money to secretly settle four sexual-harassment lawsuits filed against him.

"Because these abusive muckraking attacks on Mr. Greene have continued, and accelerated, to such a malicious and inflammatory level, Mr. Greene's reputation as a housing authority administrator has forever been destroyed," the suit said.

Greene's lawyer, Clifford Haines, filed the suit last week in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Greene, once deemed a public housing wunderkind, was fired from the $350,000-a-year job with the Philadelphia Housing Authority late last year. He also has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit, seeking more than $600,000 in salary for the two years remaining on his contract. He had served as the agency's executive director since 1998.

Mark Block, a spokesman for the newspapers, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that the sister newspapers used the coverage to boost sales "in a desperate attempt to make the newspapers relevant" as they struggled amid an extended bankruptcy. Creditors bought the publisher, now called Philadelphia Media Network, at auction last year.

The lawsuit cites both news articles and editorials in alleging defamation and libel in stories that described lavish agency parties, alleged slush funds and a reported criminal investigation.