Joliet council decides to release critical IG report before vote on museum funding

Council delayed vote in December after getting report

The Joliet City Council agreed to release a report critical of management at the Joliet Area Historical Museum on the eve of a vote on whether to support the museum with $250,000 in city money in 2024.

Council members with the exception of one did not indicate how they were likely to vote on Tuesday after having tabled a vote on museum previously in December.

The only topic of discussion at the council Monday workshop meeting was whether to release the inspector general’s report that among other recommendations urges the city of Joliet to withhold museum funding until it conducts its own audit of the operation.

The release of the report was sought by some of the employees and volunteers who lost their positions last year when 13 people were discharged over the course of several weeks, which prompted the former inspector general’s look into museum operations.

“I feel it is within my rights to access the inspector general report,” Dan Philip, a former volunteer who described himself as “one of 13 purged people,” told the council.

The Herald-News previously obtained a printed copy of the report, although the city refused to release it when a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act. Dismissed employees and volunteers said they also were denied the report when making FOIA requests.

Even before getting the report, a handful of the dismissed staff have been urging the city to stop funding the museum.

Old Joliet Prison on Monday, April 24, 2023 in Joliet.

“This isn’t a grant. It’s a taxpayer bailout for the museum,” Mary Beth Gannon, who previously gave lectures on local history at the museum, told the council.

Once the board agreed to release the report, Gannon asked that the council delay funding again until she and others could review it.

City staff recommends approval of the funding, which would come in the form of a grant to be used to reimburse the museum for specific activities.

City Manager Beth Beatty noted to the council that the city has provided funding to the museum since 2002 as she outlined how a 2024 grant would be used.

The city grant includes:

• $125,000 for tours, programs and special events at the Old Joliet Prison, which the museum manages in partnership with the city

• $100,000 for tours, programs and special events at the museum building at 304 Ottawa St.

• $25,000 for specific events and educational programs at the museum

Museum Chief Executive Officer Greg Peerbolte and board President Quinn Adamowski were at the meeting but did not speak to the council. Peerbolte and Adamowski would not comment to The Herald-News after the meeting.

Council member Larry Hug was the only council member saying how he would vote. Hug, who typically has opposed museum funding in the past, said he would do so again.

Council member Larry Hug asks fellow council member Pat Mudron about a meeting he had with other individuals regarding allegations against Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk at the City Council Meeting at City Hall in Joliet on Monday, March 13th, 2023.

Hug said the museum “shows now positive direction to being break-even.”

Hug initiated the discussion of whether to release the report, noting the city has made public other inspector general reports.

Interim City Attorney Chris Regis told the mayor and council it was their decision whether or not to release it, which they then decided to do.

While Hug has been a regular opponent of museum funding, the rest of the council has generally supported museum funding.

The report, which was issued in November, was one of Connolly’s last actions as inspector general.

New City Manager Beth Beatty removed Connolly, a private attorney who served as the city’s inspector general for two years, from the position on Jan. 24. The city currently has no inspector general, although Beatty said she intends to appoint another private attorney to the position.