The former executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority is suing the parent company of the city’s largest newspaper chain, alleging the ongoing news coverage of his work-related troubles earlier this year has caused him harm.
The lawsuit alleging libel, slander and misrepresentation was filed Sept. 14 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Philadelphia attorney Clifford E. Haines.
It names as defendants Philadelphia Media Network Inc., which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as the website Philly.com.
The complaint states that the defamation claim came about as a result of the 246 news stories published in the two newspapers between September 2010 and September 2011 in which Greene was the subject. By comparison, the suit states, 18 articles mentioning Greene’s name were published during a comparable period between August 2009 and July 2010.
The lawsuit claims that during the period of the heavy coverage concerning Greene, the media company was “in crisis.”
“During a tumultuous run under new ownership, the Inquirer and the Daily News suffered from declining circulation and readership, dwindling revenues, several missed debt payments and repeated cost-cutting layoffs,” the lawsuit states. “In a desperate attempt to make the newspapers relevant and attractive to auction bidders and to generate much needed readership and revenue, the Inquirer and the Daily news set their sights on Carl R. Greene.”
The newspapers first began reporting about Greene’s financial difficulties, and followed those stories with news accounts of purported sexual harassment claims against Greene that had allegedly not been disclosed to the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s board of directors.
The PHA’s board chairman, former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, soon declared that he would fire Greene as PHA’s executive director if it could be proven that one woman was sexually harassed by Greene, the lawsuit states.
Greene was soon fired after Street, who had “declared retaliation against Greene for a perceived slight surrounding the reporting of Mr. Greene’s personal financial problems and a lost opportunity for Street to appear in the press, orchestrated Mr. Greene’s termination,” the suit claims.
Greene then “departed from the Philadelphia scene in August 2010.”
“Despite the fact that he was out of the picture, the Inquirer and the Daily News embarked on a path of relentless attacks on Mr. Greene’s reputation,” the lawsuit claims. “Through repeated false, misleading and inaccurate characterizations of information fed to them by Street and others, the Inquirer and the Daily News accused Mr. Greene of mismanaging PHA and its budget, misusing federal money and engaging in criminal misconduct in office.
“The newspapers featured a series of articles that were devoid of fair and balanced reporting, and that in fact manipulated information to reach a predetermined conclusion. That attack continues – unabated – today.”
The suit claims that Greene’s reputation as a housing authority administrator has forever been destroyed because of the “malicious and inflammatory level” of the reporting.
The suit states that the articles written during the period in question “demonstrate the Inquirer and the Daily News’ flagrant abuse of their right to influence – and create – public opinion by skewed, unfair, unbalanced, false and misleading reporting. “The Defendants have stopped at nothing to portray Mr. Greene as an incompetent, corrupt and ineffective manager to sell more newspapers.”
In a news brief in Wednesday’s edition of the Inquirer, a Philadelphia Media Network representative told a reporter that the lawsuit has no merit, and “we intend to vigorously defend ourselves.”
The lawsuit contains counts of defamation, false light invasion of privacy and commercial disparagement.
Greene demands judgment against the defendants in a sum in excess of $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for each of the counts listed. He also seeks interest and related costs.
A jury trial is being sought.
Greene served as executive director of the PHA from March 1998 until his firing in August 2010.
The case number is 110901223.