JOLIET – The Joliet City Council is slated to vote next week on an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto Square Theatre that would open up the theater to an investigation by the city’s inspector general.
It was not clear at a special council meeting Monday whether the Rialto board will go along.
“The inspector general is not being allowed over at the Rialto,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said early in the meeting, during which council members and Rialto representatives hashed out a wide range of issues.
But a number of council members insisted that they want the inspector general to investigate the theater.
The council agreed Monday to send the Rialto the city’s next quarterly installment of funding, which amounts to $140,000. Last week, the city agreed to cover performers’ fees in two upcoming shows, an amount expected to be about $200,000.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman said the city “already takes a lot of flak” for its annual $600,000 contribution to the Rialto. The quarterly installments come out of that annual amount.
“This money is taxpayers’ money and not everyone in the city loves the Rialto,” she told Rialto board attorney David Silverman.
Silverman fielded questions about resistance to an inspector general investigation, saying that the Rialto is not opposed to it but that the theater’s not quite ready to accept it either.
“I don’t think we need a lawyer to look at these things,” Silverman said. “I think we need a financial expert to look at the Rialto and see how we get to where we are.”
But questions posed by council members went beyond Rialto finances.
Councilman Terry Morris suggested the current Rialto board should be replaced, an idea encouraged by two residents who spoke at the meeting.
“It definitely needs to go in a new direction,” Morris said, adding his support to an investigation by Inspector General Chris Regis. “Before anything’s done, Mr. Regis needs to have full access.”
Full access was another question fielded by Silverman.
“We’ve never said the inspector general can’t come in,” Silverman said. “What we’ve asked to do is a financial review and understand what the inspector general wants to look at.”
The city, however, appears unlikely to want any limits on Regis.
“You’re not saying no, but you’re saying yes with conditions,” O’Dekirk said to Silverman. “I think what the council is saying is no conditions.”
Councilman Larry Hug, a longtime critic of Rialto management, weighed in and suggested potential criminal findings amid the theater’s financial troubles.
Hug said Regis should be in charge of the financial review as well as his own investigation. He wants Theobald Associates, the Joliet accounting firm that the Rialto board hired to review its finances, to work under Regis.
“It means everything,” Hug said of what Regis might look at. “It means the carpeting. It means the chandeliers. ... He knows where to look where the bodies are buried. He knows where to look where things are out of whack.”
The council is expected to vote on an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto at either its Monday or Tuesday meeting. The Rialto board meets Wednesday.