Ex-Rantoul economic development director ordered to pay former employer more than $40,000

Former Rantoul Economic Development Director Rebecca Motley speaks during a meeting of the Route 136 corridor business owners in February 2015. Standing beside her is Mike Royse, president of the Center for Community Adaptation. A Champaign County judge this summer ordered Motley to repay the center more than $40,000.

URBANA — A Champaign County judge this summer ordered a former economic development official for the village of Rantoul to pay back the company she formerly worked for more than $40,000.

Judge Ronda Holliman ordered Rebecca Motley to pay $43,123 to the Center for Community Adaptation.

The village of Rantoul had a contract with CCA to provide economic development services. Motley served as the village’s  economic development director for three years.

The amount to be paid back includes interest and court costs.

Motley was chief operating officer for the Champaign-based CCA. According to the lawsuit filed in early June, Motley began making unauthorized payments to herself that eventually totaled $42,654.

Once her action was discovered, Motley agreed to pay back the funds. CCA had agreed to consider the incident a loan. The firm, however, filed suit, alleging Motley was not paying back the money.

Mike Royse, president of CCA, which disbanded in March, said of the incident, “It was nothing more than a business disagreement that now is not a disagreement.”

Motley declined comment to the Press.

She left as Rantoul economic development director in June 2018 to become executive director of the Greater Freeport Partnership.

The village of Rantoul had previously contracted with CCA to provide an economic development director position but decided last year to terminate that contract and create its own post.  The village has yet to create that position.

Those duties are currently being shared by Mayor Chuck Smith, Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer and recently hired Urban Planner Chris Milliken.

Smith said Motley had opted not to apply for the economic development position.

After the CCA contract ended, the village extended Motley’s contract for three months because she was involved in a number of ongoing projects, including creation of a land bank, enterprise zone organization and the relocation of Shields Auto Center to an area near Walmart.

Smith said the village was “extremely satisfied” with the work Motley had done. She, with land owner Kristi Pflugmacher, was credited with bringing the Holiday Inn Express to Rantoul.

Motley was in the Freeport position for a little more than a year. The post was a consolidated one with the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance, Freeport/Stephenson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Freeport Area Chamber of Commerce and Freeport Downtown Development Foundation. The boards of those four organizations voted to form one entity in March 2018.

U.S. Bank Market President Gary Quinn, chairman of the Greater Freeport Partnership, would not say whether Motley had been asked to resign, according to a Freeport Journal Standard article. He said there was no way Motley could have made any unauthorized payments to herself at GFP.

In an email, Motley told the Journal Standard that “my personal legal situation from a business partnership is not relevant to the work I did at Greater Freeport Partnership. That work, which stands on its own, will be continued by the staff and board.”

Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller said a full investigation of all accounting took place while Motley was in charge, “and the city is satisfied with the oversight of the GFP.”

Motley now serves as a business development director for HLJ Companies of Elgin.