State Police Investigate Past Coliseum Operator | WGLT

State Police Investigate Past Coliseum Operator

Sep 12, 2016

Credit Ralph Weisheit

State Police are investigating past Coliseum operations in Bloomington.

A city news release indicated concerns arose several months ago involving the previous operator and the city brought in state police at that time.

City leaders have complained for several years about a burdensome ten year contract. GLT asked Mayor Tari Renner why the city did not resort to the courts to force more transparency since there was a disagreement with Central Illinois Arena Management over what information the city was supposed to receive?

"And some of that was beginning even before this (investigation). This is one of the reasons why we were not able to reach an agreement for them to continue," said Renner.

The new operator of the coliseum has turned in concession revenue figures from events since April that suggest the city might have been able to fare better than it did in receipts.

City officials cite the ongoing investigation in declining further comment.

Text of City release.

CITY ANNOUNCES INVESTIGATION INTO PAST COLISEUM OPERATIONS
BLOOMINGTON, IL-

City of Bloomington officials announced today they are working with the Illinois State Police on an investigation of past Coliseum operations. City staff first reported concerns to the State Police several months ago. The investigation focuses on Coliseum operations prior to April 1, 2016, before the transition to the facility’s current management company, VenuWorks.

The comments below from the Illinois State Police and various City officials may be attributed to them regarding the investigation. To protect the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation, the City will not have any further comment related to these issues until the investigation is completed.

David Hales, City Manager:
As part of the management transition, City staff conducted extensive internal reviews and auditing. These reviews brought forward multiple areas of concern for City staff which we promptly reported to the Illinois State Police in an effort to determine whether any unlawful conduct had occurred.

City staff has been working diligently on these issues for many months, and we will continue to work with the Illinois State Police to thoroughly investigate the City’s concerns and ensure that the taxpayers of Bloomington are fully protected.

Although the Coliseum’s accounts are audited every year by an independent audit firm and have received a clean opinion each year, the contract negotiation and management transition allowed us to do a much deeper dive. It is important to note that the annual audit incorporates all aspects of Coliseum operations. In addition to the annual audits, the City also brought in specialized internal auditors in 2015 for assistance in reviewing various Coliseum accounting and operational issues. This work was performed by the Bronner Group, who started working with the City on a special audit of the Coliseum contract in March 2015. The Coliseum is a unique facility under the City umbrella and we have been working diligently over the last couple of years to improve its internal controls, operations and auditing functions.

In my opinion, being able to replace the 10-year old legacy management agreement that this City inherited with an ‘industry standard’ contract that contains both clear terms and conditions, as well as safeguards for the City, was a real triumph and turning point. But while there is great opportunity and hope for the future, we cannot ignore issues that may have occurred in the past.

Tari Renner, Mayor:
On behalf of the City, I want to extend my appreciation for the involvement of the Illinois State Police in this investigation. I also want to extend my appreciation to our City Manager and staff, who have expended a tremendous amount of time and resources in laying the groundwork for the investigation, and their diligence in bringing their concerns forward. The reason we are where we are today is because the City did its due diligence. The City Council and I, every step of the way, are fighting for the taxpayers. 

I would also call on our community to wait for all of the facts and avoid a rush to judgment. This is not the time for politics or half truths. There are professionals involved, and we need to let them do their job without interference.

I am proud to say our City Manager and staff have been working with ISP for months. We bring the announcement of the investigation forward now in the interest of transparency and anticipating it may have become public in the near future as the criminal investigation continues.

Jeff Jurgens, Corporation Counsel:
Several months ago, we had our first meeting with the Illinois State Police to report the City’s concerns and to request a more comprehensive investigation. Since that time, a small group from the City has been working very closely with the State Police and we will continue to do so through the completion of the investigation.

Curtis Webb, Executive Director of the U.S. Cellular Coliseum:
While we are cleaning up many legacy issues at the Coliseum, we are also very excited about its future. The Coliseum is a wonderful City asset and VenuWorks is thrilled to be part of its new era and helping to bring the Coliseum to its full potential.

On April 1, 2016, when VenuWorks formally took over management of the Coliseum, we immediately began implementing new policies and procedures to ensure the City’s assets are safeguarded. The management agreement we have with the City, in terms of oversight and clear directive, is probably one of the strongest our company has out of the approximately fifty different venues we serve.

Brendan Heffner, Police Chief:
As City staff and our internal auditors reviewed and reported various issues, we requested the assistance of the State Police to avoid the appearance of any conflicts.

Illinois State Police:
The Illinois State Police was requested by the Bloomington Police Department to conduct an investigation for the City of Bloomington. This case remains an open and ongoing investigation. No further information is being released at this time.