City puts Joliet museum funding on hold, wants answers on staff firings

5-4 vote puts off $250,000 annual grant for museum until February

Route 66 Joliet Area Historical Museum. Tuesday Nov. 9, 2021.

City funding for the Joliet Area Historical Museum has been put on hold, with officials saying they want to take a closer look at what happened when 13 employees and volunteers were dismissed earlier this year.

The Joliet City Council voted 5-4 at its Tuesday meeting to table a vote on funding after hearing from three of the people who were cut from the staff.

“Something needs to change there,” Mary Beth Gannon told the council. “The way my friends were treated was terrible.”

Gannon, who previously gave presentations on local history at the museum, urged council members to read a recent report from the city’s inspector general on museum management.

Mary Beth Gannon speaks to the council members during the City Council Meeting at City Hall in Joliet on Monday, March 13th, 2023.

Two council members said they should do so before voting on the $250,000 grant to help fund the museum in 2024.

“We need to start digging into what’s going on,” council member Joe Clement said.

Council member Jan Quillman made the motion to table the vote on funding the museum “until we can look into it further.”

The vote was tabled until Feb. 6.

The city has not released the inspector general report, which was issued just before Thanksgiving.

Two of the top officials at the museum said they did not even know it had been completed.

“We have been asking for months what has been going on with the inspector general report,” Quinn Adamowski, president of the museum board, told the council. “A private citizen apparently knows about the report and has seen it.”

Candidate for Joliet City Council District 2 Quinn Adamowski listens to Pat Mudron talk at a forum for the candidates at the Joliet Public Library on Tuesday, March 14th, 2023 in Joliet.

Gannon did not say whether she had seen the report.

Both Adamowski and museum Executive Director Greg Peerbolte later said that Gannon’s comments at the council meeting were the first time they heard that the report had been issued.

Voting to table the vote on museum funding were Clement, Quillman, Larry Hug, Suzanna Ibarra and Mayor Terry D’Arcy. Voting against the table were Cesar Guerrero, Pat Mudron, Sherri Reardon and Cesar Cardenas.

“We need to start digging into what’s going on.”

—  Joe Clement, Joliet City Council member

The dismissals of staff and volunteers at the museum started in late May.

Some of those who lost their positions were accused of being associated with a website and social media group that allegedly posted threatening content about museum employees and their families.

Individuals interviewed by The Herald-News said they were being wrongly associated with the alleged threats. At least some of them were banned from museum property and events.

“I’m also one of the banned volunteers,” Dan Philip told the council. “At the end of the day, an ego got hurt, and some people who spent 16 years as volunteers were let go.”

Museum officials have not commented on the dismissals and did not discuss them Tuesday.

“I’m not going to talk about staffing tonight because you don’t do that in public,” Adamowski told the council.

He called the inspector general report “ridiculous,” adding that the investigation took up “months of staff time” to compile documents in response to “false charges.”