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PenMar asks judge to dismiss most of the Role Models lawsuit

January 28, 2002

PenMar asks judge to dismiss most of the Role Models lawsuit



BY SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Arguments were made Friday in Washington County Circuit Court on a request to dismiss most of a $20 million lawsuit Role Models America Inc. filed against PenMar Development Corp. for its conduct toward Role Models.

Judge Kennedy Boone promised to rule on the issue within one week.

Role Models America operates the Role Models Academy for high school dropouts on land at the former Fort Ritchie Army base. PenMar subleases the land, which is owned by the U.S. Army, to Role Models.

Role Models, in the suit filed May 21, 2001, accuses PenMar of breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing and violation of Maryland corporate requirements.

PenMar has denied all allegations.

PenMar is asking Boone to dismiss everything but the breach of contract allegation, arguing that the others are duplicates, said Robert W. Hesselbacher, Jr., a Baltimore attorney representing PenMar.

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Role Models' attorney, David Sellinger of Washington, D.C., argued all of the allegations should stand on their own.

The Role Models suit specifically blames James LaFleur, then PenMar executive director, for some of the alleged problems. LaFleur has since left PenMar for unrelated reasons.

Role Models alleges in the suit that PenMar misled the organization about the details of the sublease Role Models signed with PenMar.

Sellinger argued at one point that PenMar "exploited" Role Models because it knew it would not start receiving funding from its $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor until it signed a sublease.

"That's all bunk," PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson later said.

The suit requests $10 million in compensatory damages for actual expenses, and $10 million for punitive damages.

One of the suit's allegations is that PenMar failed to make $500,000 in promised repairs, Sellinger said.

Wilson said PenMar will make the repairs when Role Models tells them specifically what work needs to be done.

PenMar was created by the Maryland General Assembly to redevelop the former Army base land for business. Some 2,000 jobs were lost when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998.

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