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Arguments made in Role Models appeal

February 04, 2002

Arguments made in Role Models appeal



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Arguments were made Friday in Washington County Circuit Court on an appeal of a decision ordering Role Models America, Inc. to pay $42,366 in back utility bills to PenMar Development Corp.

Circuit Court Judge Kennedy Boone said he will issue a written decision within ten days.

On Oct. 5, 2001, Washington County District Court Judge Ralph France ruled Role Models must pay the utility bills. France said there is "overwhelming" evidence Role Models owes the money.

On Oct. 12 Role Models appealed the decision arguing the court erred and the decision should be overturned and returned to District Court.

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.

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The March 10, 2000, sublease signed by both parties says PenMar will renovate about 25 buildings rented by Role Models, Role Models has said.

Since those improvements have not been made, Role Models refused for four months to pay PenMar for utility costs for those buildings, Role Models has said.

PenMar board Chairman Brett Wilson said PenMar wants to do the renovations but first needs Role Models to provide details of the work required.

But Robert Alexander, Role Models founder and president, has said the needed work is listed in the sublease.

Attorney Timothy McCormack, representing PenMar, said since Role Models is paying rent for all buildings, as the sublease required, they are required to pay utility costs for all the buildings as well.

Gary Hnath, representing Role Models, said under the sublease Role Models was to be charged for actual use and consumption of utilities but that has not been the case. There are no meters in the unoccupied buildings and charges for some buildings are exactly the same from month to month, he said.

The Army charges PenMar utility costs for the buildings in dispute, and PenMar passes those costs on to Role Models, Wilson said.

McCormack said the basis of the billing does not alter the requirement of Role Models to pay utility costs.

Another basis of Role Models' appeal is that Role Models was denied a needed continuance.

Role Models had asked to be shown evidence explaining the basis for the billed expenses, Hnath said. At the Oct. 5 hearing, another Role Models attorney was given a chance to look briefly at the Army bills but that time was insufficient, Hnath said.

McCormack said there was no requirement to provide a continuance in such circumstances.

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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