A McLean County grand jury appears to have indicted everything but a ham sandwich, and left egg on the face of city leaders, in a true bill that leaves former managers of the city-owned arena facing myriad felony charges.
John Y. Butler and Bart Rogers of Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM), and three others, are accused of under-reporting concession sales, misusing utility payments, double-dipping reimbursement for cleaning supplies and equipment, misusing a credit card and lying on tax returns.
The charges, made public this week, come after a lengthy state police investigation prompted by an in-depth audit that took place after CIAM opted against renewing its management contract for what was then known as U.S. Cellular Coliseum, and a new management company was hired by the city.
CIAM operated the Coliseum from its 2006 opening until its 10-year contract expired on March 31, 2016. In June 2016, the city signed a five-year contract with VenuWorks to manage the 7,000-seat arena.
As reported last fall, serious questions surfaced as the city was working to close the arena's financial books during the management transition.
Management of the Coliseum and questions about its funding, revenue performance and expenses have been a hot topic in the Twin Cities almost since the facility opened its doors in 2006, not to mention earlier concerns when the idea of an arena — now known as Grossinger Motors Arena — was pitched in the early 2000s.
Given the history, it would be easy to point fingers — and there's plenty of time for that. But the focus now should be on what the alleged crimes has cost the city in dollars and in respect, and also on providing a reason (if one were needed) to thoroughly audit all city departments.
It's not the first time someone has allegedly stolen from a government body. It won't be the last. Hopefully, this instance will serve as a teachable moment for government leaders to keep a death grip on their purse strings.
“We have, and always will be, committed to seeing crimes committed against the city uncovered and prosecuted," Karen Schmidt, a Bloomington alderman and mayor pro tem, said in a statement Monday. "We are appreciative to all those involved in the investigation. I am confident these serious allegations will be handled properly by the judicial system.”
The last several weeks have been hard for Bloomington-Normal and the nation. A former county board chairman was sentenced to prison for fraud; a family tragedy left three people dead. North Korea said we declared war on them; the president declared war on disrespect toward the national anthem. There was a school shooting in Mattoon and a church shooting in Tennessee.
In our judicial system, people are innocent until proven guilty. This case has just begun to wind itself through the courts, but it should teach a lesson with quick effect.