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September 1, 2014, 5:13 am

Kelly reformed housing authority

Michael P. Kelly announced his resignation as director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority last Friday.

On Monday it was announced that District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray has tapped Kelly to direct the district’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Frankly, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, “Kelly told the Tribune Friday when asked about his resignation. “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 experience with city council. I’m thankful for my time here in Philadelphia, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

“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.”

When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted Kelly’s resignation it also announced that Estelle Richman, a senior adviser to the HUD secretary, will replace Karen Newton-Cole, the agency’s one-person board chair.

Richman served as the lone authority board commissioner when HUD placed the housing authority in receivership last year. She will be returning to that role.

When Kelly arrived at PHA in December 2010 it was during a period of major upheaval for an agency rocked by scandal.

Kelly took over the agency after his predecessor, Carl R. Greene, was fired in September 2010 after the board of directors discovered that Greene used approximately $900,000 of federal money for multiple sexual-harassment complaint settlements.

He brought more than 30 years of public experience from other cities like New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

Kelly has been credited with reforms and bringing stability to PHA, which provides homes for 80,000 low-income people and has an annual budget of $400 million.

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

It would have been good if Kelly could have stayed longer to provide even more stability to an agency still recovering from Greene’s tenure.

In the interim, Kelly will be replaced by Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s current director of audit and compliance. A national search will be launched to find a new executive director, said Newton-Cole.

PHA should search for a director who is committed to continuing the kinds of reform that Kelly brought to the housing agency.