Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he was "absolutely delighted" with a letter from the congressman chiefly responsible for prompting a housing probe in Baltimore and other cities even though it rejected his demand to withdraw funds for the probe.
Rep. Jerry Lewis, a California Republican, told Schmoke early this week that "significant progress is being made" leading up to the probes. He made it clear that the $9 million given the chief investigator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to probe housing fraud would stay in the budget.
And an aide to the lawmaker said that he expected a Lewis subcommittee to add money for the probe to the HUD inspector general's budget next week.
Schmoke has been trying to sidetrack the probe since Susan Gaffney, the HUD inspector general, told him that Baltimore had been targeted, along with New Orleans and San Francisco.
He suggested that the selection of cities headed by black Democratic mayors was racially and politically motivated.
Since Schmoke began his effort to derail the investigation, Gaffney and Lewis have insisted that the cities have not been finally selected.
In his letter to Schmoke, Lewis repeated this and said Gaffney was working with the Justice Department and the FBI to refine criteria for selecting cities.
Schmoke welcomed this. He also was pleased that Lewis' letter referred to the "housing fraud initiative." Earlier, it had been called an "urban fraud initiative," prompting Schmoke to complain that it was focused only on cities to the exclusion of suburbs and rural areas.
Lewis' letter was responding to a sharply worded letter from Schmoke that sought some of the things that the lawmaker said in his response were already being done -- and also demanded cancellation of the $9 million appropriation while a new selection process was conducted. Schmoke had written after reading in the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles might also be investigated.
Schmoke said he and Lewis share the same goal -- "to try to eliminate fraud and waste in all of our federally funded programs."
He told reporters, "Contrary to feeling rebuffed, I actually feel that he was very responsive.
"In the future I will call his office and try to speak to him directly TTC before writing letters based on my reaction" to newspaper articles.
Pub Date: 6/12/98