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Judge rejects appeal by Role Models

February 20, 2002

Judge rejects appeal by Role Models



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Washington County Circuit Court Judge Kennedy Boone has rejected an appeal of a decision ordering Role Models America, Inc. to pay $42,366 in back utility bills to PenMar Development Corp.

His written decision was filed Wednesday.

"We are obviously pleased that the judge saw the matter the way we did and ruled in our favor," PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said Friday.

Role Models will appeal Boone's decision, "all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary," Role Models founder and President Robert Alexander said.

"It is abundantly clear that it is virtually impossible for RMA to receive justice in the Washington County courts. Furthermore, we will certainly appeal this case to the Special Court of Appeals in Annapolis. Hopefully, there will be a level playing field where justice is defined as 'fairness,'" he said in a written statement.

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Boone heard arguments on the appeal Feb. 1.

On Oct. 5, 2001, Washington County District Court Judge Ralph France ruled Role Models must pay the utility bills.

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.

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 to pay utility costs for the months of April through July 2001 for those buildings, Role Models has said.

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 the exact 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.

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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