Philly Housing Authority Drama Pushes Forward

     (CN) – The Philadelphia Housing Authority may have ruined the reputation of a worker it accused of conspiring to conceal sexual harassment charges against his then boss, a federal judge ruled.
     Frederick Pasour had been supervising the PHA’s labor and employment matters, Equal Employment Opportunity office, and workers’ compensation program for seven years when sexual harassment claims against Executive Director Carl Greene surfaced in August 2010.
     Greene was fired the next month, and a former employee who filed suit later that year claimed she “feared for her life and began to be reluctant to leave her house” because of intimidation and retaliation meant to punish her for complaining about Greene’s harassment and fraud.
     Pasour said PHA’s insurer eventually settled the claims of three former employees dating back to 2004.
     In 2011, Greene accused the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News of targeting him in a yearlong, 246-article defamation campaign that “destroyed a hard fought and brilliant professional career.”
     The PHA demanded Greene release copies of unredacted legal bills for an audit in April 2011, which the former exec allegedly tried to dodge by citing attorney-client privilege.
     Pasour sued the PHA earlier this year, claiming that, while acting as PHA chairman, former Philadelphia mayor John Street accused Pasour of conspiring to conceal the charges against Greene and the subsequent settlement from the board of commissioners. Street allegedly made these remarks at an Aug. 26, 2010, public meeting and in an anonymous investigative report published the next month.
     The PHA then had Executive Director Michael Kelly replace Pasour as the head of human resources, according to the complaint. Pasour said Kelly informed him on Feb. 6, 2011, that he was being suspended with pay and barred from the premises.
     The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the suspension days later, and PHA’s acting director of human resources advised Pasour that he should be fired the next month, the complaint states.
     Pasour alleges that he was not given an opportunity to have a publicly held, due-process hearing to clear his name, despite making several written and oral requests.
     Although the PHA told Pasour in a letter that it would hold a due-process hearing on May 20, 2011, a private meeting with acting HR director Audrey Lim and PHA’s counsel took place that day instead, according to the complaint.
     Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter dismissed some claims last week but preserved others.
     If Pasour can prove Street made the statements in question, they “certainly call into question Mr. Pasour’s reputation and integrity as an employee, threaten his future employment, and go beyond simple ‘derogatory statements,'” Buckwalter wrote.
     A reasonable jury could find that Pasour’s termination directly resulted from Street’s stigmatizing statements, the 12-page judgment states.
     “PHA notes that Chairman Street’s statements were made in August and September of 2010, whereas Mr. Pasour’s suspension and termination were not until February and May 2011, respectively,” Buckwalter wrote. “In response, plaintiff argues that his replacement as the head of human resources, suspension from employment, and eventual termination demonstrate a continuing course of conduct connecting the termination to the damaging statements made by Chairman Street. The court is inclined to agree with plaintiff.”
     Pasour can seek monetary damages, but the PHA is a commonwealth agency immune from defamation and invasion of privacy/false light claims, the ruling states.

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