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Our View

Council, public must see stadium terms

It’s a positive development that Joliet has found a naming-rights partner for the baseball stadium it owns and leases to the Joliet Slammers.

The way in which the agreement has been approved – with relevant details including how much the sponsor will pay and how long the contract will last withheld – is a different story.

The public and their representatives on the Joliet City Council should have had the opportunity to review any naming agreement for the city-owned baseball stadium before it was signed. They must demand to review it now, and force Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and interim City Manager Martin Shanahan to follow what should be basic principles of transparency.

City officials on May 21 announced they had signed a naming-rights agreement with Downers Grove-based DuPage Medical Group for the city-owned stadium. Managers of the Joliet Slammers, the team that leases the stadium from the city, negotiated the agreement.

However, the city owns the stadium, and such, the council should have final say over whether to approve the agreement.

On Wednesday, more than two weeks after signing the deal, Shanahan still refused to provide details of the agreement, but promised “I will ensure, after proper accounting, the city receives its fair share after deduction of expenses.”

In sum, an agreement was approved on behalf of the city by an interim city manager, who has been neither elected nor permanently hired. That interim official has declined to share terms of an agreement with the very people whose job it is to vet and oversee such agreements.

Then he assures everyone that he’ll make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

Dealings with publicly-owned entities must be subject to public scrutiny. Joliet is not a private entity, and those who do business with the city cannot expect privacy. Anyone who promised the naming-rights agreement would remain secret has made a promise they cannot keep.

Council members have a duty to oversee operations of the stadium – and to do so requires this information be discussed in a public forum.

This should be a positive thing for the city, but the secrecy surrounding approval of this deal has diminished that.  It is possible that the agreement is perfectly acceptable – but if it is not, council members should not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary in order to void it.

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