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Senators pass Wivell letter on to state

April 21, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE- U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes have asked Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and the state attorney general to review the concerns of a number of people regarding the sale of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade.

The senators, both D-Md., said in April 18 letters to Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. that they have received concerns from several constituents about the sale, but that the issue is not a federal matter.

"We have recently been contacted by a number of our constituents, including Washington County Commissioner William Wivell, expressing concern with the proposed sale of the former Fort Ritchie by the PenMar Development Corporation," Mikulski and Sarbanes wrote in the letters to Ehrlich and Curran.

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"Our constituents are concerned that the former Fort Ritchie has been sold below its fair market value and are requesting an investigation into this matter," the senators wrote. "As this is not a Federal matter, we ask that your office review the attached correspondence and the concerns of our constituents."

Sarbanes' office, which faxed the letters to The Herald-Mail on Wednesday, did not include the attachments with the faxes.

Wivell, in an April 8 letter to Sarbanes and Mikulski, asked the senators to investigate the sale of the base to Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia, Md., for possible wrongdoing or unethical or criminal acts.

Wivell is treasurer of the PenMar board and vice president of the County Commissioners.

In his letter, Wivell wrote that it appears "certain individuals altered critical provisions of the (sale) contract documents" after they were given to the PenMar Development Corp. board of directors for approval, but before they were submitted to the developer buying the property for signature.

The parts of the signed contract that Wivell said were altered dealt with a fairness opinion the PenMar board agreed to have completed on the sale. The purpose of the fairness opinion was to determine whether the proposed sale price is fair and reasonable.

Wivell said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he sent his letter to Sarbanes and Mikulski because he wasn't sure who should review his concerns.

"If they feel that the Attorney General's Office is the more appropriate office to look at it, then yeah, that's fine," Wivell said.

Cascade Committee Director Karl Weissenbach said he and several other area residents also have contacted Sarbanes and Mikulski requesting an investigation.

The Cascade Committee is made up of Cascade-area residents.

"Obviously, we fully support the investigation," Weissenbach said. "It's long overdue."

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