Bloomington officials react to alleged arena fraud

John Butler, Paul Grazar, Kelly Klein, Jay Laesch and Bart Rogers
Former Central Illinois Arena Management employees (left to right) John Butler, Paul Grazar, Kelly Klein, Jay Laesch and Bart Rogers are charged on a fraud scheme. (Photos courtesy McLean County Jail)

By Eric Stock and Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington City Manager David Hales said the city has strong controls in place to detect fraud, but he says there’s no way to guarantee you can stop it.

Five former managers who worked for Central Illinois Arena Management are charged in a more than 100-count indictment accusing them of stealing more than $1 million from the city over the decade the firm ran the city-owned arena.

Hales told WJBC’s Scott Laughlin the city’s external auditors didn’t find anything wrong.

PODCAST: Listen to Scott’s interview with Hales on WJBC.

“It goes to show you can even have auditors as we found time and time again do some deep dive analysis and sometimes they don’t even detect (fraud),” Hales said.

Alderwoman Diana Hauman says the city should have had tighter controls in its contract with CIAM.

“If we could go back in time, it would have been written with different checks and balances in it,” Hauman said.

Bloomington alderman Jamie Mathy acknowledges people who opposed the arena probably feel vindicated after the indictments, but he said he sees the arena as an overall positive for the city.

“We have the building there,” Mathy said. “We need to make sure to just make sure that we do the best possible job of utilizing it as completely as we possibly can, and do everything we can to make it a positive for Bloomington.”

Mathy said he sees positive steps toward improved transparency with new management firm VenuWorks.

Mayor pro tem Karen Schmidt declined comment.

Hales added VenuWorks, has more in-depth auditing then CIAM had. It’s first manager was fired last fall for allegedly misusing a company debit card.

Eric Stock can be reached at [email protected].


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