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Local News

Rialto attorney looking into late addition of Onesti to management 'team'

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre board on Wednesday will consider what legal problems a finalist in the running for third-party manager may have created by adding Ron Onesti to its team, the board’s chairman said Tuesday.

Rialto Chairman Dan Vera answered a firing line of questions at the Joliet City Council meeting.

The meeting also included some criticism of the online petition drive to get Onesti in as Rialto manager for including signers from as far away as Las Vegas.

Onesti Entertainment, which owns the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, was among five companies that made proposals to become third-party manager. Onesti did not make the cut. But one of the companies that did, Pinnacle Venue Services announced that it has added Onesti to its “team” while making a presentation to a Rialto committee on Monday.

Vera was asked by two council members whether Pinnacle had changed its proposal by adding Onesti.

He said the Rialto’s attorney was looking into the matter on Tuesday.

“We’re going to discuss that tomorrow, and that will be a decision by the board,” Vera said.

Onesti was added amid a petition campaign organized in part by Rialto board member Mary Beth Gannon, who wants him to manage the theater.

The online petition has more than 1,100 signers.

But Tim Shanahan, a member of the Rialto’s foundation board, said advocates for Onesti misrepresented the signers as all being local when they came to the City Council on Monday and talked about the petition. Shanahan named DeKalb, Mattoon and Las Vegas as a few of the towns where signers lived.

“That was a direct attempt in my opinion to mislead this group,” Shanahan said.

Vera, meanwhile, faced a series of questions from Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who questioned the Rialto’s ability to survive and criticized the two finalists – Pinnacle and VenuWorks – in the third-party management search.

O’Dekirk noted that the management companies would collect fees while projecting that the Rialto would continue to lose money in the next three years.

“The theater companies make money, and the theater loses money,” O’Dekirk said. “I don’t think either one of these are good deals.”

O’Dekirk also criticized Vera for having Onesti make a presentation to the Rialto board before the board decided to seek proposals from third-party management companies, saying Onesti was “forced to stand up and publicly show his hand.”

Actually, both Onesti and VenuWorks made presentations to the Rialto board before a decision was made to look for a third-party manager. Vera said he also asked Harrah’s, a company O’Dekirk at one time was promoting, to make presentations because those companies had contacted him, and the third-party management concept was new to the Rialto.

“I invited all three of them to come to make a presentation on what it means to have a third-party manager,” Vera said.

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