Wayne's Words: What’s Next For The Rialto?

Wayne Horne | 3/16/2016, 8:58 p.m.
Now that the Rialto board has decided to not renew General Manager Randall Green’s contract, what’s next? When the matter ...
Wayne Horne

Now that the Rialto board has decided to not renew General Manager Randall Green’s contract, what’s next? When the matter was discussed in open forum at Monday’s Joliet Pre-Council meeting there seemed to be some confusion over what the cost would be for a separation agreement with Green. Readers of Wayne’s Words know from previous columns that Green’s contract specifically outlines that he will be entitled to six months of compensation from the date of termination if that occurs during the third year of the agreement.

The original contract dated January 1, 2011 was extended on January 1,2014. There were three parts to the extension. Part A increased his salary from $135,000 to $142,000. Part B extended the agreement for three additional years beginning January 1, 2014. Part C continued all other terms and conditions contained in the original “Employment Agreement of January 1, 2011.”

Based on the terms of Part A of the contract extension the maximum cost of a separation agreement is $71,000 which is half of his annual $142,000 salary, so why is anyone confused? It is assumed negotiations will lower the amount to zero if possible. However, there may possibly be some doubt the contract extension is valid.

A Wayne’s Words column published on February 7 this year pointed out that there was no evidence that the contract extension had been approved by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority. I requested and received a copy of the minutes from the WCMEAA board meeting immediately prior to approval of the contract extension. No mention was made of a contract extension in the minutes of that meeting. Was it just an oversight or did approval occur at an earlier meeting?

After the Times Weekly broke the story last week about the tax troubles facing the Rialto management, a source from the Paramount Theatre in Aurora regarding some incorrect information in the column. I had said that the Aurora venue had a budget of $9 million and an annual audience of 250,000 people. I was advised that their budget this year is $16 million and the audience exceeded 300,000. Both are anticipated to be larger next year.

The nonpayment of Federal and State withholding taxes is just the most recent example of mismanagement of the asset known as “The Jewel of Joliet.” The Rialto budget is slightly under $3.6 million and the anticipated audience this year is between 50,000 and 60,000. The real issue facing the Rialto board is how to move the venue forward and make it financially stable and sustainable.

The Rialto management issue is combination of two parts: management of the Rialto properties and the marketing and presentation of entertainment at the Rialto Theatre. They are two separate skill sets and finding one person to do both is probably unrealistic. Property management experts abound in Chicagoland and finding that person, while offering some challenges because of the historical aspect of the Rialto itself, should not take long.

Management of entertainment at the theater requires a skill set that is readily available in the cultural arts community. In fact, according to WCMEAA board Chairman, several inquiries have already been received. One inquiry was received Monday night after the Rialto meeting.

There is no question that the immediate financial issues must be resolved as soon as possible. Consuming a lot of time and resources seeking who is to blame for the Rialto problems will serve little purpose in the long run. Some of the problems have been uncovered and resolutions are being pursued. The long term survival of the Rialto Theatre has yet to be addressed. The venue needs a sustainable financial future. Stay tuned…