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Dispute between exes nears resolution

A long-running dispute between an Eastern Shore woman and her developer ex-boyfriend based on business arrangements made when they were a couple is nearing its conclusion.

A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge last week awarded Lora M. Fritschle $300,000 in attorney’s fees stemming from her lawsuit against Michael J. Palmisano and more than $10,000 as reimbursement for production of courtroom transcripts from a 28-day bench trial that spanned 10 months.

At the trial’s conclusion in June, Judge Robert N. Dugan awarded Fritschle at least $2.6 million based on the couple’s business arrangements, including $2.3 million stemming from a phantom stock plan and another $300,000 based on Palmisano’s violating other agreements between the couple.

Dugan granted final judgment last week on the phantom stock plan, which had grown to more than $2.4 million with interest.

The judge, as part of his June verdict, also granted Fritschle 10 percent of the net profits on real estate deals made by Palmisano and his dozens of holding companies and limited liability corporations, a number of which were based in Baltimore County.

Towson tax and estate lawyer Craig D. Spencer was appointed to determine that figure but withdrew from the case this month and was replaced by James J. Kern of Gross, Mendelsohn & Associates P.A. in Baltimore. The audit was originally scheduled to be discussed at last week’s hearing; a make-up date has not yet been scheduled.

“I think the resolution will come when Mr. Kern makes his final report,” said T. Bruce Hanley, the Towson lawyer representing Fritschle.

Palmisano also was ordered to pay Kern a $45,000 retainer fee, Hanley added.

William N. Butler of Butler, Melfa & Taylor P.A. in Towson and Andrew Jay Graham of Kramon & Graham P.A. in Baltimore, Palmisano’s lawyers, did not return calls for comment.

Fritschle and Butler met in 1995 and were together for a decade. Fritschle alleged Palmisano owed her $2.5 million based on a 1997 business agreement giving her a percentage of net profits on current and future real estate deals. Palmisano ended their personal and business relationships in a March 2005 letter, saying he owed her only $1.5 million based on the subsequent phantom stock plan. Such arrangements give an employee the economic incentives of ownership without actually owning the business.

Fritschle filed suit under her former name, Lora Stewart, in July 2006 and sought $10 million in compensatory and $15 million in punitive damages.