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Land transfer to PenMar blocked until fall

July 11, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Legal actions by Role Models America Inc. against the U.S. Army will block the Army from transferring some Fort Ritchie property to PenMar until at least October, PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a legal skirmish is continuing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt, Md., between Role Models and its landlord, PenMar Development Corp., over the possible eviction of Role Models.

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

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As a result of Role Models' bankruptcy filing, PenMar and Army officials delayed a ceremony planned for May 20 at which they were to sign a deed transferring 236 acres from Army ownership to PenMar.

Role Models President Robert 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.

The 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, Alexander said.

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

The Army was recently notified it had until October to provide documentation on the case to the court, Wilson said. It has not been announced when hearings on the case will occur, he said.

The Army is not going to transfer the land until the appeal is acted on, Wilson said.

Due to a series of legal disputes between PenMar and Role Models, Role Models' bankruptcy filing put a stay on any action PenMar might take against Role Models, including eviction.

But on June 19, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Mannes approved a motion from PenMar asking that a stay on the lease with Role Models be lifted, allowing PenMar to proceed with plans to evict Role Models.

Later that week, Alexander said he would appeal the judge's decision.

A notice of intent to appeal the decision was filed with the court June 27.

Role Models filed a motion requesting a stay on the eviction July 1.

PenMar alleges 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 was being charged for land it could not use.

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

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

Alexander did not return phone calls left this week.

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