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MARLBORO — Democracy Builders Fund (DBF I) will remain “the de facto landlord” of the campus of the former Marlboro College, at least when it comes to receiving rent from the Marlboro Music Festival.

Until a final determination by the court, or an agreement is reached between DBF I and Type 1 Civilization Academy on who owns the property, DBF I “shall remain in control of and be responsible for all maintenance obligations with respect to all other property that was transferred to it by Marlboro College Corporation ...”

The question came before Windham Superior Court Judge Katherine Hayes on June 9, when the School of Music asked the court to establish an escrow account to deposit its $250,000 in rent. Annual maintenance costs for the campus are more than $1 million.

According to the stipulation approved by the court, the Marlboro School of Music will pay for certain maintenance expenses, which will be deducted from its annual rent.

“As part of such obligation, DBF I shall take all steps necessary to ensure that all utilities, including water, electricity, sewer, telephone, and internet availability are maintained on the Campus through the 2021 Festival ...” wrote David Dunn, attorney for the Marlboro School of Music, in a stipulation agreed to by the School of Music, DBF I, and Type 1.

However, notes the stipulation, even though DBF I will be acting as “de facto landlord or owner,” this shall not be considered as evidence supporting any claim by DBF I that it is entitled to rent or ownership of any or all of the property that was transferred to DBF I by Marlboro College Corporation.”

The Marlboro School of Music signed a 99-year lease in 2018 with the Board of Trustees of the former Marlboro College, which occupied the campus from 1946 until it merged with Emerson College last July.

The board sold the campus to DBF I, which proposed Degrees of Freedom, “a new kind of higher ed experience that is affordable, flexible, and inclusive,” according to its website.

The purchase of the campus and the founding of Degrees of Freedom was spearheaded by Seth Andrew, a former advisor in the Obama Administration. Shortly after DBF I purchased the campus for a total of $1,725,000 in cash and debt, Andrew announced Degrees of Freedom would become a tenant to Type I Civilization Academy.

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According to the notice of non-objection from the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the deal was worth $9.4 million to DBF I, which included $2.5 million in cash, $2.5 million in escrowed pre-paid rent, $2.5M as a mortgage-backed structured donation, and $1.5 million in Type 1’s assumption of certain lease obligations to the Marlboro Music Festival.

But then, Andrew announced the sale was off, claiming Type 1 had not met certain obligations listed in the sales agreement.

In documents filed by the Marlboro School of Music in Windham Superior Court, Christopher Serkin, the chairman of the board of the school, wrote that Andrew had informed him the cancellation of the agreement was due to Type 1’s failure to fulfill “certain maintenance obligations” related to the campus.

To complicate matters, on April 26, Andrew was arrested in New York City, accused by federal prosecutors of stealing nearly $220,000 from DBF I to help finance a mortgage on an apartment in the city.

Degrees of Freedom hoped to welcome students to the campus this fall, but has put its plans on hold until next year.

Adrian Stein, the principal behind Type 1 has insisted his organization holds the title to the property, assessed at approximately $4 million. DBF I has asserted the same claim.

Both Type 1 and DBF I are prohibited from “selling, encumbering, mortgaging, pledging, transferring or otherwise disposing of all or any portion of the Marlboro Property” without agreement by all parties or until the Music Festival is over and ownership has been resolved.

DBF I and Type 1 have until July 20 to file their pleadings in the ownership case.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.