Trustee discussion, Google results, a case of pneumonia, and public comment
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (March 6, 2019) – An item on the February 5 Committee of the Whole agenda read, “CONSULTING SERVICES CONTRACT FOR SPONSORSHIPS – SINCLAIR SOLUTIONS LTD.” That item was part of a series of events that generated questions and concerns from Lansing residents and members of the business community. The Lansing Journal reported on the events in our daily online edition. The timeline below provides a summary of those articles and additional events.
Friday, February 1, 12:00pm
Mayor Eidam goes home with pneumonia.
Friday, February 1, 4:35pm
Agendas for the February 5 Board meetings are distributed. The Lansing Journal receives the agendas via email, and Lansing Trustees receive the agendas in the Board packets they pick up from Village Hall. The February 5 Board packets also include a January 22 letter and bio from Dwight Welch, and a proposed contract from Sinclair Solutions dated January 14.
Tuesday, February 5, 7:00pm
Village Trustees discuss the Sinclair Solutions contract at the Committee of the Whole meeting. Village Administrator Dan Podgorski explains, “We’ve reached out to Sinclair Solutions, who has experience in running a venue and also in seeking sponsorships.” Podgorski also explains that “Sinclair Solutions” is Dwight Welch, the former Mayor of Country Club Hills, which also has a concert venue comparable to Fox Pointe. Podgorski proposes that the Trustees vote to approve this contract at the February 19 meeting of the Board.
Podgorski suggests that Welch’s experience would benefit Lansing as the Village works to transform Fox Pointe into a premiere venue that brings visitors, entertainment, and revenue to town. After reading parts of the contract out loud, he opens the floor for questions.
“I’ve got a lot of questions,” says Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich. “I think 20 percent is a lot of money to be giving to someone who worked on a venue that is reportedly still losing money in Country Club Hills.”
Grady-Perovich had also done a quick Google search of Dwight Welch, which revealed a number of news reports from reputable organizations detailing a history of fiscal irresponsibility by the former mayor. Some reports include references to his management of the Country Club Hills venue, like the Chicago Tribune’s Daily Southtown 2016 article, which states: “The theater, just east of city hall at 4200 W. 183rd St., hasn’t hosted a performance since the 2013 season, shuttered after tallying multimillion-dollar losses in its first few years of operation.”
At the meeting and in a follow-up conversation, Trustee Brian Hardy speaks in Welch’s defense. Hardy had met Welch several times and was impressed with his charisma and ideas and apparent connections. “He thinks big,” says Hardy. “He’s dynamic. He knows people.” Hardy suggests that Welch might be able to bring in five- or six-figure sponsorships from sources outside of Lansing—Budweiser, Miller Lite, and State Farm, for example.
Hardy says Welch had also intimated that he could bring bigger acts to Lansing’s Fox Pointe venue—names like Diana Ross and Buddy Guy—rather than relying only on local talent.
Asked about reports that the Country Club Hills venue has lost millions of dollars, Hardy says, “I don’t think you can blame those losses on Dwight.” Hardy believes Welch did his job, bringing in big names and big sponsors, and if people don’t come to the shows, that’s not the fault of the manager. Hardy believes Lansing can avoid the problems Country Club Hills experienced, even using the same fundraising manager they used. He wants to give Welch a chance.
“We’re not giving him an open checkbook,” Hardy says. “I do not want him getting any money until he produces.”
“There’s no cost upfront to us,” Podgorski says at the meeting. “I’m comfortable recommending him as a Director of Sponsorships.”
Also at the meeting, Hardy says, “If he’s not doin’ his job, we can get rid of him.” But Grady-Perovich points out a clause that Podgorski had not read out loud: “…exclusive right to create, provide, and sell all sponsorships for Fox Pointe Theater owned by Village of Lansing, Illinois, for a five-year period starting with this contract approval.”
Village Attorney Matt Welch (no relation) assures Grady-Perovich that this was just sample language providing a guideline for the business terms. At the February 5 meeting, Attorney Welch says he had reached out to Dwight Welch and is working on a more detailed agreement.
“I’d like to see the real contract and where we’re going with it before I would venture to vote,” says Grady-Perovich.
Besides Hardy and Grady-Perovich, Trustee Tony DeLaurentis is the only other Board member to share his thoughts on the matter, and he also notes positive personal interactions with Welch.
At the end of the discussion, it is agreed that the final contract with Sinclair Solutions will be included in the Board packets for the February 19 meetings, so that the Trustees can vote on it at the February 19 Board meeting.
Saturday, February 9
The Lansing Journal reports on the February 5 Board meeting in an article titled, “Concerns raised about proposed Fox Pointe contract with former mayor of Country Club Hills.”
Wednesday, February 13
Mayor Eidam, working from home while she completes her recovery from pneumonia, directs the Administration “not to pursue any type of contract with Sinclair Solutions, Ltd., whose principal is Dwight Welch.”
Thursday, February 14
“I never saw the February 5 Board packet because I was out of the office already by then,” says Mayor Eidam via phone call with The Lansing Journal on her 14th day at home on doctor’s orders. “If I had, it wouldn’t have been on the [February 5] agenda.”
Eidam explains that when she began checking voicemail and email early in the week, she asked Communications Director Ken Reynolds to bring a copy of the February 5 packet to her home. She conducted her own research on the matter of Dwight Welch and his proposed contract with the Village of Lansing, and she arrived at the conclusion that this would not be a good fit for Fox Pointe.
During this same phone call, Eidam also confirms that Lansing does want to find someone who has a background in corporate sponsorships to help generate revenue at Fox Pointe, but there is no specific deadline for filling that role.
The Mayor also clarifies that Tony Troncozo’s role as Director of Fox Pointe will be to recruit and schedule entertainment for the venue, not sponsorships. The roles are related inasmuch as sponsors will be attracted to the venue because of the quality of acts it can retain, but different networks and skills are required for each.
The Lansing Journal conveys the above in an article titled, “Fox Pointe sponsorships will not be on February 19 agenda.”
Friday, February 15
Mayor Eidam returns to the office following her illness.
Tuesday, February 19
The municipal offices are closed on Monday, February 18, in observance of Presidents Day, and Mayor Eidam resumes her regular work schedule on Tuesday—including presiding over the Village Board meeting. There is no Committee of the Whole meeting that night. The topic of Fox Pointe sponsorships is not on the Board agenda, but it comes up during Public Comment. Lansing resident Mary Beth Palka, the fourth of seven people to offer a comment, says, “I’m a little concerned that no one’s vetting some of the riffraff that’s being presented. And when I say ‘riffraff,’ there isn’t anybody worse for this village than [Dwight] Welch.” Palka also refers to a January 15 business proposition, this one by John Terzakis, who has also faced legal and financial troubles, as reported by Crain’s Chicago Business. The Trustees had considered partnering with him to redevelop the former Kmart property near Torrence and Bernice. Palka berates the Board: “You Trustees work for us. And I don’t feel people are safeguarding the funds of this village to want to do business with those two. Shame on you for not doing your job.” She does not receive a response from the Board, and further public comments move on to other topics.
Meetings of the Village Board are scheduled for the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Agendas for the meetings are posted in advance, and the public is welcome to attend. Meetings take place at the Municipal Court Complex (Lansing Police Department), 2710 170th Street.