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Local News

Rialto appointment could be factor in Joliet mayor's race

JOLIET – A pending appointment to the Rialto Square Theatre board looks as if it will become a campaign issue in the April 7 mayoral election.

The Joliet City Council on Tuesday tabled Mayor Tom Giarrante’s appointment to the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, which oversees the Rialto.

Asked Wednesday if he thought the appointment would become an election issue, Giarrante said, “Absolutely.” He declined to elaborate.

But the council tabled the appointment until after the election, leaving the possibility that another mayor would appoint a different person to the now highly visible board.

Mary Beth Gannon, a leader in the Rialto Belongs to the People group that counts hundreds of members, expressed her disappointment that Giarrante did not appoint her.

“I’d like to have been given a fair chance,” Gannon said, adding that she looked forward to the election.

The mayor wanted Nicholas Macris, a Joliet resident with a resume that includes being a former operations manager for Exelon Corp. and a former administrator at the University of St. Francis. Macris, now retired, also is president of Joliet/Will County Project Pride and the Kiwanis Club of Joliet.

He has a master’s degree in architecture, which could be useful as the Rialto considers restoration projects, Macris said.

Macris said he was honored Giarrante named him. He did not understand the reasons for tabling his appointment.

“I don’t think it’s a political job,” Macris said. “I think it’s a job for people committed to the Rialto theater and its continued vitality.”

Councilman Bob O’Dekirk, one of two candidates facing Giarrante in the mayoral race, previously has voiced support for Gannon and said Wednesday he would likely appoint her if elected.

“I think I would,” O’Dekirk said. “I was impressed not only by her credentials, but as soon as the marquee came out, she took a leadership position.”

Gannon led the effort to block a modern marquee that would have been funded with a $350,000 donation from retired businessman Ed Czerkies. The Rialto already has paid $120,000 for the project, and the Rialto board has appointed Gannon and others to a committee to find a solution to the marquee problem.

O’Dekirk and Councilman Jim McFarland both said they would have wanted the appointment tabled if Gannon had been Giarrante’s appointee.

McFarland, who made the motion to table the appointment, said it would have been Giarrante’s third appointment to the Rialto board since the marquee controversy arose. He questioned the motives for the appointments.

“Now, all of a sudden, there is a controversy at the Rialto, and the mayor is taking a knee-jerk reaction and making appointments to the board,” McFarland said.

In December, Giarrante reappointed Daniel Vera and Mary Babich to the board. Vera’s term had expired Dec. 1. But Babich’s term expired in 2004.

Macris would have replaced Dave Hacker, who died in August.

Mayoral candidate Andy Mihelich could not immediately be reached Wednesday for comment.

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