Nutter staying out of PHA fight for now

Mayor Nutter is not joining federal housing officials in calling for the resignation of the embattled board of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

On Friday, Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of the Department asked the five-member PHA board to resign “to restore confidence in the agency and to protect the funding for the residents.”

According to board chairman John Street, all five are determined to stay.

Scandals involving former PHA director Carl Greene and questionable spending have spawned a host of investigations and angry denunciations by Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said the agency is concerned about what Congress might do.

“We could have calls for the funding that goes to the Philadelphia Housing Authority to be reduced.” Brown said.

Brown said a house-cleaning at PHA is important to show that the authority is making a fresh start.

“This is not about pointing a finger at the board. There’s nothing personal,” Brown said. “This is about accountability. We are the folks that have to answer to Congress and we need the board to help by asking them to step aside.”

Reporters cornered Mayor Nutter Monday to ask if he thinks the board should quit. In responding, he sounded more like a bystander than a player in the struggle.

“This really is an issue, if not a battle, if you will between HUD and the board,” Nutter said. “I really do know know what’s going to happen, or what the board members are gong to do, and as I mentioned trying to get a little more up to date information.

Nutter did say the board, should be responsive to its chief funder–HUD.The Mayor could force one member, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell out, but that wouldn’t dramatically alter the board.

He might face political costs if he calls for the resignation of city labor leader Pat Eiding or Debra Brady, the wife of Congressman and Philadelphia Democratic chairman Bob Brady.  Nutter says he hopes a forthcoming audit of PHA will help to clarify the board’s record and resolve the situation.

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