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Rialto Board resigns following approval of funding agreement

Brock A. Stein | 1/5/2017, midnight
Following the mass resignations of the entire Rialto Square board, Joliet's mayor Bob O'Dekirk has said he will have four ...
The Rialto Square board aka the WILL COUNTY METROPOLITAN EXPOSITION AND AUDITORIUM AUTHORITY. Photo by Brock A. Stein

Following the approval of an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Joliet that will restore $500,000 in annual funding, the members of the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority (WCMEAA) board resigned last week.

There were no stipulations in the written agreement that the members of the WCMEAA board would be required to resign from their posts in order for the city to approve the funding though that is what happened following the meeting on December 29.

Board member Mary Babich indicated this week that despite that requirement not being set down in writing that was her motivation for resigning like the rest of the board.

“I love the Rialto. I want the Rialto to get their money. So that’s why I did what I did,” said Babich who had served on the board since 2001.

“It’s politics at its finest.”

When asked why the entire board resigned despite it not being a requirement in the agreement, Babich replied, “They don’t always put everything in. Bottom line.”

Babich said that the call for the theater to turn a profit is unrealistic and ignores the value that the landmark brings to downtown Joliet.

“If any town would have a Rialto they’d be so proud to have it,” she said, “It’s just a shame that we had to go through all of this.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the WCMEAA will receive half of the payment in January and another in July—provided the theater contracts 30 performances by the middle of the summer.

Other conditions in the agreement call for the Rialto management to pay its payroll taxes and its annual audit in a “timely” manner.

The document also calls for the theater to contract with third party vendor VenuWorks for at least 1 year. The management company has been operating on a month-to-month contract at a cost of $1 per month since it started in September. That agreement expired at the start of the year.

The city will receive expanded oversight under the terms of the new IGA which includes broader access for the city’s financial director and inspector general. The city will also have open access to the theater’s financial books, to contracts as well as access to its list of payables and its audit.

The city also will have updated reports on the theater’s monthly expenses, amount of cash on hand and an updated list of shows and events booked at the venue.

The city also can conduct a forensic audit of the theater’s books at its own expense under the new terms.

Following the city council’s vote on Tuesday to approve the agreement, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said that he was already moving to fill the four spots that he appoints in order to get an active quorum to conduct the business of the theater.

“I think it’s imperative that we fill our four appointments,” said O’Dekirk Tuesday night. In order for the new board to conduct business, one appointment made by Governor Bruce Rauner will also have to be approved said the mayor.

O’Dekirk said that he’s received dozens of applicants to serve on the Rialto board and would have 4 to be approved at the council’s January 17 meeting.