It's hard to tell who's right in the squabble between the regional Housing and Urban Development office and Baltimore city's Housing and Community Development agency. What's clear is that the dispute is a classic case of bureaucracies getting so embroiled in red tape that the original function they were designed to serve becomes secondary.
The feds say Housing Commissioner Robert Hearn's agency hasn't kept track of millions of dollars in Community Development Block Grants awarded during the 1980s. HUD is threatening to make Baltimore return as much as $2 million if the city can't show exactly how the funds were spent.
The city responds that HUD is changing the rules. It claims, with some truth, that it keeps voluminous records of awards and that HUD basically has accepted its monitoring procedures until now. But apparently Maxine Saunders, the new HUD administrator appointed by HUD Secretary Jack Kemp to clean up the mess left by her predecessor, St. George Crosse III, believes the city should be doing a better job.