- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

CASCADE, Md. (AP) Federal auditors are questioning more than $260,000 in expenditures at a taxpayer-funded, military-style academy for high school dropouts.
The questionable charges include more than $40,000 in rent and household furnishings for the home of Role Models America Inc. founder and president Robert Alexander and his wife, Janessa, according to the Labor Department audit.
Mr. Alexander said yesterday the questions mainly reflected confusion within the federal bureaucracy about the way in which he and Mrs. Alexander, the school's chief executive officer, were compensated for their work. Rather than taking salaries, they had approval to use a share of the school's grant money for certain personal and other expenses, he said.
Mr. Alexander said the Labor Department informed him in April that Role Models might have to reimburse the government for those costs, or convert them into salaries.
The audit was released Friday. The agency's assistant secretary for employment and training will review the findings and Mr. Alexander's response before taking any action, said Joe McGowan, spokesman for the inspector general's office. Possible actions range from recovering the costs to shutting down the school, he said.
Mr. Alexander opened the National Role Models Academy last year at the former Fort Ritchie Army post in northern Washington County. The Prince George's County psychologist and criminal justice scholar received a $10 million, two-year grant to create a pilot program offering a second chance to 16- to 19-year-old dropouts.
About a dozen students earned diplomas from the academy in its first year, Mr. Alexander said.
Auditors questioned $262,258 of $6.7 million in reported expenditures from June 5, 2000, to March 31, 2001.
Many of the questioned expenses were reimbursements for payments to College Corps Management Service of nearby Waynesboro, Pa., a for-profit corporation headed by Mrs. Alexander that handles Role Models administrative functions.
According to the audit, College Corps spent nearly $23,000 for rent and a security deposit for the Alexanders' house in Waynesboro, plus nearly $18,000 for household furniture and about $2,500 for water conditioning.
The audit said other questionable College Corps expenses included:
More than $52,000 for unspecified legal expenses.
About $50,000 to a mortgage company that had loaned the Alexanders money against their house in Mitchellville to obtain unspecified program funding.
About $44,300 in wages and benefits to two full-time college students employed by Role Models; Mr. Alexander said they worked at the school during two summers.
About $30,700 for unexplained loan payments to various people and a credit union.
$7,000 for unspecified consulting work.
About $6,000 for household utilities.

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