Joliet OKs $250,000 for museum after advocates make case to council

Mayor notes human resources consultant reviewed museum firings.

Joliet Area Historic Museum sits along North Ottawa Street on Wednesday, Feb. 7th 2024 in Joliet.

The City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve $250,000 for the Joliet Area Historical Museum, opting not to try to sort out management and personnel issues that became the focus of what typically is a routine funding matter for the city.

Museum board members and a community leader rose to the institution’s defense, pushing back against a case being made by staffers let go last spring that the city should take a deeper look at management before providing financial support for 2024.

The case against the museum was bolstered by a city inspector general report made public on the city website Tuesday. The report lays out an assortment of personnel issues while recommending that the city hire an accountant to do an audit of museum finances and a human resources consultant to review personnel issues before sending more money to the institution.

The inspector general report was sparked by a string of dismissals of 13 employees and volunteers from the museum last spring.

Before casting his vote in favor of funding, Mayor Terry D’Arcy noted that the museum has a human resources consultant who reviewed the dismissals.

“I don’t know everything that happened,” D’Arcy said. “But they have been vetted by a human resources firm that said what they did was within their legal limits.”

Museum board member Gloria Dollinger urged the council to approve the funding, noting that the museum has both a human resources consultant and an annual audit.

Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy and Gloria Dollinger, of the Joliet Rotary Club, converse at a luncheon to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Rotary Club at Jacob Henry Mansion on Tuesday, Aug. 1 in Joliet.

“Every year we have an outside audit, and that information has been sent to the city,” Dollinger said.

She said the City Council has a liaison who participates in museum board meetings.

“Our business has been transparent,” Dollinger said.

Amy Sanchez, vice president of the Collins Street Neighborhood Council, was among the advocates for museum funding, commending the Joliet Area Historical Museum for its management of the Old Joliet Prison. The prison is located on Collins Street.

Council member Jan Quillman, the council’s former liaison to the museum board, read off a litany of issues she had with museum operations before casting her dissenting vote.

“I just want to know what happened,” Quillman said, adding that “a fast one was pulled on me” after she tried to have the museum funding vote pulled off the agenda earlier in the day.

Council at Large Jan Hallums Quillman sits in on a hearing on the validity of nominating petitions of two City Council candidates at the Joliet City Electoral Board meeting on January 4th.

The council in December tabled the vote on museum funding so it could take a closer look at the inspector general report.

The report, provided to the council in late November but made public for the first time this week, provides an unusually close look at personnel issues at the museum, listing dismissed staffers’ complaints about management.

The report was compiled by former Inspector General Sean Connolly, a private attorney who held the position for almost two years before being removed Jan. 24.

At its workshop meeting Monday, the council decided to make the report public at the urging of dismissed museum staff, who said they should be able to see the findings.

Other council members voting against funding the museum were Joe Clement and Larry Hug.

“I just think there are too many things going on here that need to be looked into,” Clement said.

Council member Cesar Guerrero, however, said it was not the council’s role “to intervene as a human resources department” in museum operations as he cast a vote in favor of funding.

Council member Suzanna Ibarra said the $250,000 was designated for specific museum operations, giving the city control over how the money is spent.

“It’s not a $250,000 check that they can spend any way they want,” Ibarra said.