JOLIET – The entire board of the Rialto Square Theatre resigned Thursday after approving an intergovernmental agreement that likely will assure $500,000 in funding from the city of Joliet next year.
The board also approved a three-month extension of its contract with VenuWorks at a price that could be as high as $21,500 a month.
Chairman Dan Vera led off the resignations, saying he felt his work at the Rialto was completed last week when the Joliet City Council put $500,000 in the city budget for the theater.
Vera also repeatedly said that his resignation and everyone else’s was voluntary, making the point after one board member indicated that it was not.
“If it takes the entire board to resign for us to get the city to give us the money and to go on with the board, I love the Rialto,” board member Mary Babich said.
“Obviously, we’re all voluntarily doing this,” Vera said immediately after Babich was done speaking. “There’s no stipulation for any resignations.”
The resignations of three of the seven board members – Vicki Murphy, David Thornton and Cynthia Tyler – may have been a moot point since their terms expire this month. Board appointees are split between four by the mayor and three by the governor.
The intergovernmental agreement did not stipulate resignations.
But Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at a special City Council meeting Dec. 14 suggested seeking the resignations of the four city appointees to the Rialto board. He also said he believed there needed to be “wholesale change” for the city to consider $500,000 in Rialto funding for 2017.
O’Dekirk and Vera at times have been at odds over theater management, and the mayor said at the Dec. 14 meeting that the board seemed to either ignore city recommendations or do the opposite.
Vera, a city appointee, said after the Thursday meeting that O’Dekirk had never asked him for his resignation. Vera even said that he was told by the mayor in one conversation that he was not seeking resignations from the board.
Still, board members did not offer any other explanations as to why they all resigned at the same time with the exception of Michael Murray, who was not at the meeting.
Vera said Murray had resigned two weeks ago, although that resignation previously had not been announced.
City Council member Pat Mudron, who is the council liaison to the Rialto board, said Murray previously had asked him whether the city would provide the $500,000 in funding if the entire Rialto board resigned.
“He was going to present that to the mayor,” said Mudron, adding that he did not know if O’Dekirk actually ever sought the resignations.
Mudron said Rialto board members may have wanted to resign amid the controversy and financial challenges facing the theater.
“I do feel the whole board here was beat up – went through a lot,” he said. “You’ve got to wonder, who does want to be appointed?”
The mass resignation overshadowed the primary matters of business at the special meeting that was called just two days after the Rialto and city completed negotiations on the intergovernmental agreement.
Approval of the final version of the intergovernmental agreement, which included changes negotiated by the city, was needed to assure the $500,000 in funding.
The City Council still has to approve the intergovernmental agreement, which will be up for a vote when it meets Tuesday.
The Rialto first proposed an intergovernmental agreement in early December, seeking four years of funding. The agreement was changed to one year.
The City Council last week agreed to budget the $500,000 for the theater, subject to the approval of the agreement.
The Rialto board also approved a three-month extension of its contract with VenuWorks, the company hired in August to manage the theater, but at a much steeper price than the dollar-a-month deal that has been in place.
VenuWorks will get a combined package of as much as $21,500 a month between a $9,500 base fee and expenses capped at $12,000.
At some point, the Rialto and VenuWorks will have to sign a one-year deal for the theater to get the money budgeted by the city. The intergovernmental agreement requires a one-year contract with VenuWorks before the city provides any money.