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Joliet City Council votes ‘no’ on Rialto intergovernmental agreement

Brock A. Stein | 4/6/2016, 7:48 a.m. | Updated on 4/6/2016, 11:02 a.m.
The future is unclear for Joliet's Rialto Theater following the city council's defeat of an intergovernmental agreement Tuesday that would ...
The Rialto Board. Photo by Brock A. Stein

The Joliet City Council Tuesday night defeated an ordinance for an intergovernmental agreement with the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority which oversees the Rialto Square Theater.

Ignoring Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s warning that failure to pass an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto Theater Board could signal the end of operations there, the board voted 5-3 against approving the ordinance.

“If we don’t act on this…I think it’s a fair assumption that they’re going to close their doors,” O’Dekirk said before the vote.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city would have agreed to pay any performance expenses related to shows already booked at the Rialto up to the $600,000 Joliet has earmarked for 2016 while the theater would agree to allow the city’s inspector general access to records for an investigation.

A vote called Tuesday night by council woman Jan Quillman to table the vote until after an April 6 meeting of the WCMEAA board on Wednesday also went down to defeat as did a later call for an amended agreement that changed language requiring the city to hire an outside auditing firm.

Council members Turk, Gavin and Gerl voted to approve the agreement and council members Hug, McFarland, Morris, Mudron and Quillman voting against. The same five members also voted against the amended agreement requiring the outside accounting firm.

Council member Pat Mudron downplayed the necessity of the agreement altogether saying it was “putting pressure on them [the board] acting as if they have done something of gross negligence other than a manager’s error.”

Mudron said he attended a finance committee meeting for the theater on Tuesday and was satisfied with a draft of the 2015 audit which he said showed “no errors.” The ongoing controversy over the agreement and possible investigation by the city inspector general was calling in to question the solvency of the theater said Mudron and was causing issues with booking acts for the fall season and moving ahead to hire a new general manager.

The mayor disagreed with Mudron’s characterization of the situation.

“Certainly this is more than the manager’s error,” said O’Dekirk.

“I don’t know where they’re going to get money to hire a new manager and I have no idea where they’re going to get money to book a fall season,” he said noting that without the intergovernmental agreement the city council most likely wasn’t prepared to provide more money to the theater “until we get the answers of what’s happened over there.”

Both council members Quillman and Bettye Gavin expressed disappointment that no one from the Rialto Theater attended Tuesday night’s meeting.

“I too have some heartburn around the issue that nobody from the Rialto is here,” said Gavin.

“If you’re needing these funds…and you’re not being as transparent and accountable as possible it shows to me that you don’t really need them,” she said.

Council member Jim McFarland took issue with a separate agenda item that would have approved a contract with CliftonLarsenAllen, an accounting firm that would have conducted an audit of the theater’s finances for $150 per hour at the city’s expense.