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City to consider legal options with Motown

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Alderman Hobler suggests initiating deceptive practice charges

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Because representatives of Motown Technology & Sports Facility Inc. continue to ignore phone calls and e-mails from Vandalia officials, one alderman believes it’s time to go to a higher power.

Mike Hobler believes that the city may get some type of response from the Motown group if the sheriff in the group’s home county serves them with some type of legal document.

Hobler said at Monday’s city council meeting that he believes it’s time to pursue legal action against the group for giving the city a bad check. None of the other aldermen voiced opposition to Hobler’s suggestion.

Representatives of the group, which has plans for a $300-million sports and entertainment complex in Vandalia, were in town in December for the approval of an amended agreement between Motown Technology and the city. One stipulation of that agreement was that the Motown group would reimburse the city at that meeting for a $17,500 traffic study performed for the proposed project.

Motown Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Bardwell presented the reimbursement check, but the city learned just a few days later that the check had bounced.

Though the check was stamped “Not Sufficient Funds,” Vandalia Director of Economic Development JoAnn Givens said the check was not good because Bardwell did not have the authority to issue the check without supporting authorization from others in the group.

A Motown spokesman told The Leader-Union in January that the Motown Board of Directors would meet at the end of that month and address the issue at that time. But the group has failed to issue a new check, and has recently continued to ignore phone calls and e-mails from the city.

Upon hearing that on Monday night, Hobler said, “I’d say it’s about time that we get a hold of the state’s attorney.

“You know we would with anybody else,” he said. “They’re no different."

Hobler was referring to the possibility of seeking deceptive practice charges against Motown Technology for giving the city a bad check.

Alderman Jerry Swarm asked whether the city should have to “wait until our agreement with them is up.”

Hobler responded, “Absolutely not – they’re committing a crime.

He said the city might hear from Motown if “we have the sheriff in the county they reside in have a meeting with them, since they don’t want to return ours (calls and e-mails).”

Alderman Larry Bennett agreed with Hobler, saying, “I definitely think we’re overdue on that. We’ve been so much more than fair that it’s ridiculous.”

Gottman said he would refer the matter to the city’s legal counsel, the local law firm Burnside, Johnston, Sheafor and Kelly, to study the city’s options.

In addition to seeking the initiation of deceptive practice charges against Motown, the city could possibly seek to begin actions to terminate the agreement with the Michigan-based group, since the reimbursement is one of the terms of that agreement.