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Local News

Joliet mayor says proposed agreement needed to save Rialto Square Theatre

The Joliet City Council is slated to vote on an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto Square Theatre that would open the theater to an investigation by the city's inspector general.
The Joliet City Council is slated to vote on an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto Square Theatre that would open the theater to an investigation by the city's inspector general.

JOLIET – Mayor Bob O’Dekirk on Monday described a proposed intergovernmental agreement as a “last-ditch attempt to keep the Rialto open.”

The Joliet City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on the agreement with some council members suggesting changes and with no clear indication that the Rialto Square Theatre board would go along with city plans for an investigation.

But the mayor said time for the theater could run out if the intergovernmental agreement is not approved.

“This is a last-ditch attempt to keep the Rialto open,” O’Dekirk said at a workshop meeting Monday. “They are about to close their doors. We were told how close Friday.”

O’Dekirk did not elaborate on the Rialto’s financial problems other than to say that the theater is likely to come back to the city for more money.

The city already has paid about $120,000 in payroll taxes and expects to pay $200,000 more in performers’ fees for shows this week. The Rialto is fast using up the $600,000 the city has budgeted for its annual contribution.

“This is not our problem, but it’s become our problem,” O’Dekirk said. “They’re going to come back and ask us to bail them out.”

The intergovernmental agreement commits the city to paying balances due on performance contracts until the Rialto has used up its full $600,000 annual allotment. Typically, the city pays the money in quarterly installments.

In turn, the Rialto would open itself up to an investigation by city Inspector General Chris Regis, who could inspect records, question current and former employees, interview board members, and review all operations.

The Rialto board has not indicated whether it will accept an inspector general investigation but meets Wednesday to consider the intergovernmental agreement.

While the council appears to want an inspector general investigation of the Rialto, some members Monday questioned a separate proposal that would generally give the inspector general authority to investigate any organization or governmental body that receives money from the city.

“It’s kind of big brother at its finest,” Councilman John Gerl said, noting that the city is giving the county $10 million as an incentive to keep its new courthouse downtown. “Are we going to bust in the county doors and investigate them?”

The city also would hire Oak Brook accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen to do a financial review of the theater.

Some council members questioned whether the city should spend money for the accountants.

But City Manager Jim Hock said the city needs to get a grasp on the Rialto’s financial situation and its prospects for a turnaround.

“We need this expertise,” Hock said, “and we need it yesterday.”

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