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Role Models to drop suit

October 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Role Models America Inc. President Robert Alexander has filed a request for dismissal of a $20 million court case that the organization filed against the PenMar Development Corp., citing Role Model's lack of legal representation.

He has had no attorney for the civil case for four months, Alexander said in a written request filed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court.

Role Models operated a military-style academy for high school dropouts on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base. It was funded by a two-year, $10 million U.S. Department of Labor grant that expired May 30.

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PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said Tuesday he thinks PenMar will not object to Alexander's request provided the case is dismissed "with prejudice," which means the suit can't be refiled later.

Role Models and PenMar have been involved in a series of legal disputes.

In a suit filed May 21, 2001, Role Models accused PenMar of breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone in January approved a PenMar request to dismiss everything but the breach of contract allegation.

PenMar denies any wrongdoing.

In May, Role Models filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which frees it from the threat of creditors' lawsuits while it reorganizes its finances.

Earlier this month, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Mannes approved a request by Role Models to dismiss the bankruptcy case.

Mannes in June approved a motion to allow PenMar to evict Role Models from the Fort Ritchie land. In court papers, PenMar contended Role Models had on more than one occasion violated a sublease agreement by failing to pay rent and utility expenses.

Role Models attorney Ed Kimmel of Takoma Park, Md., has said he advised Alexander to withdraw the Chapter 11 filing because, without a site for the school, "there really wasn't anything to reorganize."

His role was limited to the bankruptcy, Kimmel said Tuesday.

Role Models was represented in civil cases by a Washington D.C. firm. In May or June, PenMar forced the firm to remove itself from further representing Role Models, contending it would have a conflict-of-interest as a possible Role Models creditor, Alexander said in his filing.

Alexander could not be reached for comment.

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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