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Suit against PenMar dismissed

October 07, 2005|By TARA REILLY

CASCADE

tarar@herald-mail.com

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a $122.8 million lawsuit against the PenMar Development Corp., its former executive director and federal officials.

The suit, filed by former PenMar tenant Role Models America Inc., alleged that PenMar overcharged it $1.9 million in rent in a "fraudulent scheme" to discriminate against and bankrupt the tenant, among several other allegations.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade, which the Army shut down in 1998.

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In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, Role Models also sought, for no charge, ownership of 587 of the base's 638 acres.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates on Wednesday ruled that other courts already had decided against claims contained in the suit. The claims were made in previous lawsuits filed by Role Models, Bates said.

"Having lost earlier contests, plaintiffs now seek to outflank the judgments of other courts by asserting in this action various constitutional, statutory, and common-law claims against the same parties," Bates said in the ruling.

"As the Supreme Court has said, 'public policy dictates that there be an end to litigation; that those who have contested an issue shall be bound by the result of the contest; and that matters once tried shall be considered forever settled between both parties,'" Bates wrote.

Role Models filed the amended suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in March against PenMar; former PenMar Executive Director James LaFleur; R. Les Brownlee, secretary of the U.S. Army; and Elaine Chao, secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The original suit, which sought $304.5 million in damages, was filed in January 2004.

"Yeah, that's one down," PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook said Thursday of Bates' ruling. "The outcome was anticipated. We felt pretty sure going in that we had done things correctly."

Role Models' attorney, Donald Temple of Washington, D.C., was out of the office Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Role Models operated the College Corps program, a military-style school for high school dropouts, at the former base from March 2000 until it was evicted by PenMar in July 2002.

Another suit filed by Role Models is ongoing. That suit requested that a federal judge order an injunction on the transfer of the base from the U.S. Army to PenMar.

The judge denied the request, but the decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals. As a result, the injunction barring the land transfer remains in place.

PenMar hopes the injunction is lifted so it can acquire the property and sell it.

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