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Joliet Council Refuses to Accept City Manager's Resignation Letter

Tom Thanas, angered that several council members suggested his handling of a land purchase smacked of corruption, tendered his resignation Monday night.

The Joliet City Council refused to accept City Manager Tom Thanas' letter of resignation Tuesday, which Thanas tendered Monday night after what he believed was an accusation of corruption made by three council members.

Despite the vote of confidence, Thanas declined to say whether he would withdraw his resignation, which was to be effective at the end of the year.

"I've got thick skin, as I think most of you have seen, and I don't mind when the arrows are coming at me (from the front)" he said. "But when they're hitting me in the back like they did yesterday ... I have to question whether I should be here or not."

The standoff has been building for several weeks, with Thanas commenting several times over the last few months that perhaps it was time for him to depart. However, things didn't come to a head until Monday afternoon's pre-council meeting, when council members Bob O'Dekirk, Jan Quillman and Larry Hug questioned the terms under which the city purchased a building last year.

The site was needed for the under-construction downtown transportation center, and the city agreed to buy it for $1.25 million. What council members say they didn't know is that the owner would continue to receive $1,000 in month in rent until the city was ready to demolish it.

Thanas and city attorney Jeff Plyman maintain that was an explicit part of the deal, meant to save the city the expense of having to manage the property in the interim between the sale and demolition, but the council members said they were not told.

Prior to the Tuesday council meeting, Thanas said he would not work for anyone who accused him of corruption.

"When this becomes personal and there are allegations of corruption, that's where I had to draw the line," he said. "They crossed the line when they said it was an underhanded deal and that I gave the store away."

After the Monday meeting, Thanas wrote his letter of resignation and emailed it to the mayor and council.

Mayor Tom Giarrante told Thanas he would not accept it, and lauded the city manager for keeping the city on strong financial footing during his 10-year tenure. He criticized council members for what appeared to be an orchestrated effort to put Thanas in the hot seat, and said he criticized himself for not stopping the discussion before it went as far as it did.

At Tuesday's meeting, O'Dekirk acknowledged it was wrong of him to use the term "corruption" in discussing the issue at the meeting and later when interviewed on WJOL-AM.

"It was a poor choice of words," he said. "I apologized to Tom personally this morning and I'm doing it in front of the council right now. I shouldn't have said what I did."

But he did not back off from his right to ask the question, nor did Quillman.

"I didn't do anything differently yesterday than I've done in the past," Quillman said. "I brought it up. I didn't make any accusations. Again, if there's a question, this is a job the people elected me to do, to ask the tough questions. If they're too hard to answer, I can't help that. But that's not going to stop who I am and what I stand for."

Hug was the only council member to not give Thanas a vote of confidence, opting instead to abstain from the vote.

"I'm not comfortable telling Tom, who's an intelligent man, what he should or shouldn't do," Hug said. "Myself and nobody I'm aware of asked him to resign, nor will I try to pressure him to stay."

Thanas, 58, acknowledged there are many projects he'd like to see through to completion -- including the transportation center, the Joliet Junior College downtown expansion, the growing inter-modal center and the commercial development of Theodore Street and Route 59.

"If you're asking me to work on those things, I'll stay here until I keel over," he said.

Quillman was ready to accept that response, but with one proviso.

"I don't want to hear anymore comments from you about, 'Well, if you want me to leave, I'll go elsewhere,' and 'I don't have to be here, I can go to Florida,' blah, blah, blah. If you're going to stay, stay. Make a commitment and stay."

That was enough to prompt Thanas to remain noncommittal about his future plans.

"There will come a day, whether it is this year or five years from now, and someone else will step up and do the job," he said. "None of us are irreplaceable. Whether it happens for me this year or not, I don't know."

anonymous March 20, 2013 at 02:25 PM
More great investigative reporting-so what are Thanas's ties to the owner of the building?

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