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Judge: Academy can be evicted

June 19, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Greenbelt, Md., on Monday approved a motion to allow PenMar Development Corp. to evict its tenant, Role Models America Inc., from land on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base, PenMar and Role Models officials said Tuesday.

Role Models will appeal the decision by Judge Paul Mannes, Role Models President Robert Alexander said Tuesday in a written release.

PenMar will try to evict Role Models as soon as possible, PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said.

Since March 2000, Role Models has subleased 253,000 square feet from PenMar for about $1.3 million a year.

Role Models, a military-style academy for high school dropouts, on May 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which frees it from the threat of creditors' lawsuits while it reorganizes its finances.

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Role Models and PenMar have been involved in a series of legal disputes. As a result of one ongoing dispute, Role Models' bankruptcy filing put a stay on any action PenMar might take against Role Models, including eviction, Wilson said.

PenMar asked that the stay on the lease be lifted so it could evict Role Models. Alexander and Wilson said Mannes agreed Tuesday to PenMar's request.

In court papers, PenMar contended that Role Models violated the sublease by failing to pay rent and utility expenses on more than one occasion.

Alexander has said Role Models should not have to pay some rent and utility expenses because it has been unable to use about 100,000 square feet of the 253,000 square feet it is leasing because PenMar refused to make improvements and repairs needed for occupancy.

Wilson had said repairs would be made when Role Models specified what work needed to be done.

Alexander has said Role Models should have been notified it was possible under federal law to get the Fort Ritchie property at no cost because it was being used for an educational facility. Wilson has said it was not PenMar's responsibility to notify Role Models of the law.

That allegation was previously part of a July 2001 federal lawsuit in which Role Models sought a temporary restraining order to block the Army from transferring property to PenMar.

A judge refused to issue the restraining order, and the case is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The school operated on a two-year, $10 million U.S. Department of Labor grant that expired May 30.

Classes at the school ended in May.

Fifteen students have graduated from the school, which began Oct. 23, 2000.

Alexander has said he is optimistic the school will resume operations this summer with private funding.

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