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Savage Mill manager to drop complaint against school board member

The manager of Historic Savage Mill, a prominent local Republican, plans to withdraw a breach-of-contract complaint he filed claiming Howard County Board of Education member Brian Meshkin owes him $3,000.

"I continue to support Brian — this was a complete misunderstanding," Steve Adler, the Republican candidate for Howard County executive in 2002, said in a statement released jointly Saturday with Meshkin.

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The joint statement asserts: "Mr. Adler and Mr. Meshkin have resolved any minor differences that resulted in recent public attention brought to this matter."

On April 23, Adler, of Clarksville, filed a complaint in Howard County District Court against Meshkin, who, Adler said in an interview last week, never repaid him for a start-up loan for a now-defunct company.

In late 2010, Adler said last week, Meshkin wanted to lease space in Savage Mill to start a business incubator for small- to mid-sized companies that would offer a range of services. Adler said he provided Meshkin with a furnished office, rent-free for six months, for the business, called Venture Rapids, Inc. Adler also provided Meshkin with a $3,000 personal loan to cover start-up costs.

A resident of Fulton, Meshkin was elected to the Board of Education in 2010. A businessman and entrepreneur, he is currently CEO of Proove Biosciences, based in Los Angeles.

By the end of summer 2011, Adler said last week, the six-month rent-free period was up, and Meshkin stopped returning Adler's phone calls and did not begin paying back the loan. Six months ago, Adler began leasing the space to a different client.

"I expected very little in return," Adler said. "But he just stopped talking to me about it, wouldn't return my calls, and I had no alternative action. ... I'm just trying to get him to do what he had verbally agreed to do."

"I never expected this from someone of Brian's background and stature," Adler added in the interview. "He seemed to be an outstanding, forthright kind of person, which has turned out not to be the case, and it's quite disappointing to me."

The statement from the two men released Saturday told a different story. It portrayed the company in Savage Mill as a joint venture between the two businessmen, one in which the financial contributions of each "were never mutually agreed or determined to be a loan to any person or potential entity."

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The venture never got off the ground "due to several different circumstances including legal counsel's inability to incorporate and organize the non-profit incubator and Mr. Meshkin's need to spend last summer in California for his own company," the statement added.

"I recant my previous comments, as my earlier concerns were due to my respect for Brian Meshkin's integrity, achievement and contributions to our community," Adler said in the statement.

In a later interview, Adler explained the mix-up further: "In getting the incubator up and running, we went through so many ideas, that we never finished the contractual side of things. Over the course of the year, we have different lives and there were phone calls, letters, emails trying to contact each other. ... As soon as he found out about this, he came over immediately and we talked for an hour and we resolved the issue."

The complaint will be withdrawn by mid-week, Adler said Sunday.

"Steve is a well-respected pillar of our community, who supports business and economic development," Meshkin said in the statement. "I am grateful for Steve's continued support and friendship. I look forward to continuing our collaborations. Sometimes people have misunderstandings and I'm just glad that the facts are now clear."

This report has been updated.

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