The Justice Department is warning Baltimore that it may withhold as much as $82 million from the city because of sub-par record-keeping for federal grants it got 10 years ago, The Baltimore Sun reported today.
Mayor Sheila Dixon was looking to use the money to hire more police and improve law enforcement activities, The Sun said. The Justice Department said Baltimore is a “high risk,” and would not give the city money until it submitted grant records from 1996, 1998 and 2000, according to The Sun. City officials said they should be able to comply with the DOJ requests.
“I’m not concerned at all that we’re not going to be able to work this out,” Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, told The Sun. “These are paperwork issues. Everyone recognizes that this happened a really long time ago.”
This isn’t unexpected news for Baltimore. Auditors questioned the city about the grants several times since 2002, and city officials always said they would clear up problems with their grant records, but never did, The Sun said. The city even had to send back about $150,000 of Justice Department Local Law Enforcement Block Grants because of incomplete paperwork, according to The Sun.
The Sun’s editorial board, however, had sympathy for the city officials calling the DOJ’s request “ridiculous.”
“If there were an ongoing issue with whether Baltimore properly accounts for how it spends its grant money,that would be one thing. But there isn’t,” wrote Sun editor Andy Green. “Instead, we’ve got the federal government blowing a hole in Baltimore’s public safety budget — and keeping cops off the streets at a time when we desperately need them — to settle the score on ancient history.”
Here’s what The Sun said Baltimore could lose if the city doesn’t comply:
•$5.2 million in formula Justice Department grants, which are awarded based on population and violent crime
•$2 million in competitive Justice Department grants
•$1 million in Justice Department Violence Against Women grants