A former employee of the Philadelphia Housing Authority has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming he was fired for reporting that others in the agency were involved in waste, fraud and theft. John Tatum, a former assistant general manager who supervised 400 employees, was terminated after telling his superiors that employees were using the agency’s Home Depot credit cards to steal building materials.
Tatum was head of maintenance for thousands of freestanding houses scattered through the Philadelphia area. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, after informing his supervisors about his suspicions, he was demoted and then reassigned to managing two people at an apartment complex in North Philadelphia.
The lawsuit said that Tatum began suspecting employees were stealing building materials in 2007. In July 2008, police raided a North Philadelphia “chop shop” and recovered a large amount of building materials stolen from the PHA.
During the subsequent police probe, Tatum told investigators and his supervisor, Daniel Quimby, that he had information and documents detailing how the thefts were being carried out. Shortly thereafter, Tatum was demoted and reassigned. On Jan. 5, 2009 he was fired.
In September, the Philadelphia Daily news reported that the FBI was conducting an investigation of a major theft ring at the Housing Authority.
Tatum also alleged in his lawsuit that former PHA executive director Carl R. Greene falsified his performance reports to increase his annual bonus by downplaying the amount of work orders on scattered housing sites. Requests for repairs were often recorded as “closed” and subsequently moved to other departments where they were handled by non-agency subcontractors, making it appear that Greene was managing the department more efficiently.
Besides the Housing Authority, Greene, Quimby and Diane Rosenthal, head of finance at PHA, were named in the lawsuit.
Greene was fired in September after the PHA board discovered he had been concealing a number of sexual harassment lawsuits and settlements. Since then, nine other lawsuits have been filed against Greene and the agency.