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Letter: My offer to donate for Rialto marquee declined

This is a letter Jay D. Bergman sent to Rialto Square Theatre General Manager Randy Green and board Chairman James Smith. It was sent to The Herald-News by Bergman.

Dear Jim and Randy:

This is to confirm our conversation yesterday afternoon wherein you declined my offer to contribute $350,000 for the new marquee at your Jan. 28 board meeting.

As you know, my offer indicated that the marquee would have no donor information. As a low-profile, lifelong resident of Joliet, my desire was not to generate any recognition for myself but to put much of the recent controversy in the community about the marquee behind us.

As word of my offer is apparently starting to circulate in the community, I thought it best for all of us if I outlined our recent discussions in this letter as fact is better than rumor.

• Jan. 8 or 9: Mr. Czerkies asked for his money back, and this was reported in the local media.

• Jan. 12: I talked to Jim Smith on the phone and indicated that I would be willing to consider making a $350,000 contribution to the theater to dampen the sign controversy. I did not want any donor information on the sign or any other recognition other than maybe a modest plaque somewhere. We agreed to meet the following week when I returned from our Florida estate.

• Jan. 20: The three of us met at the theater. We reviewed the Czerkies marquee design and discussed replacing the donor information on the front of the sign with “The Jewel of Joliet.” We discussed replacing the donor information on the ends of the sign with “Rialto” above the sign board and “Established 1926” below. As you know, I retained an attorney to draft a simple Donor Agreement. Upon approval of the Donor Agreement at the Jan. 28 board meeting, I would hand over a check for $350,000.

• Jan. 22: I received a phone call from Jim and Randy. You indicated that you had met with Tricia Simpson and Steve Randich and had decided to decline my offer. You indicated that there was a small group of people who may want some changes to the marquee and that you were going to form a committee to reconsider the project.

We are all friends, so I don’t want to say anything negative that someone might take personally. So, as a group decision, let me say that I think that you guys made a huge mistake.

The Rialto needs a new marquee. You have been trying to interest different individuals and businesses in the community to fund the project in exchange for donor recognition on the sign since 2007. Seven years later, Mr. Czerkies agrees to make a $350,000 contribution for the marquee that will have language honoring his parents. A huge controversy arises in the community about the marquee and, primarily, the donor wording on the marquee. Mr. Czerkies withdraws his gift. As a well-off lifetime resident of Joliet, I offer to make a gift of $350,000 solely in an attempt to dampen the controversy. I seek no recognition on the marquee or elsewhere. My offer is rejected.  

That said, I sincerely wish all of you and the Rialto the best of luck.

Yours very truly,

Jay D. Bergman

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