DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — The Board President of Danville’s Palmer Arena is resigning in the wake of the dismissal of the arena’s General Manager.
General manager Joe Dunagan was unanimously fired by the Vermilion County Metropolitan Exposition Auditorium and Office Building Authority two weeks ago. Although Board President John Spezia voted in favor of Dunagan’s termination, he ultimately did not agree with the decision, saying to members of the press the Board decided to fire Dunagan without telling him first. He also expressed his belief that the termination was politically-motivated.
In a statement, the Board called these comments “concerning,” as what happened during the executive session regarding Dunagan was a closed session and should not be available to the public. The Board added that the decision to fire Dunagan was not political, as Spezia indicated, and was made in the best interest of Palmer Arena.
The Board said that Spezia tendered his resignation on Thursday to certain Board members and Danville’s Mayor. Spezia indicated that he would resign later this month once an item of business is resolved and approved.
The Board’s full statement can be read below.
On August 24, 2022, the VCMEA-OBA board met to discuss matters pertaining to the
Arena, as well as to discuss the future of the general manager, Joe Dunagan. A motion was made
by Kim Hoffman and seconded by Tara Auter that Board President Spezia, Scott Dowers, Dylan
Haun, and Janet Payne would meet with Joe Dunagan on Thursday, August 25th at 9:00a.m. to
discuss information that was raised during executive session and to allow him an opportunity to
tender his resignation by 3:00p.m. If he failed to tender his resignation by that time, then he
would be terminated effected August 25, 2022. Mr. Dunagan failed to appear at that morning
meeting and failed to tender his resignation. He was terminated as general manager. The motion
was passed, unanimously, by all board members present. Board President Spezia voted, in favor,
of terminating Joe Dunagan.
It has come to the attention of the board that Mr. Spezia has made statements to the press
regarding what transpired during executive session regarding Joe Dunagan. Those statements are
concerning, as executive session is a closed session, not available to the public. This allows for
discussions to be had regarding personnel and ongoing litigation. These closed sessions are
crucial in the process of managing local boards and municipalities. All other discussions and
action items are had pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, in full view of the public.
The decision to terminate Joe Dunagan as general manager was not political, as indicated
in statements made by Mr. Spezia. The decision was made after a lengthy three (3) hour
discussion regarding his continued employment and the direction of the board and Arena. After
the discussion, and the unanimous vote by all board members present, the decision to terminate
Joe Dunagan was made in the best interests of the Arena.
The board members present for the August 24, 2022 meeting are confused and
disappointed by Mr. Spezia’s statements provided to the media after he agreed on the current
course of action. While we understand that Mr. Spezia is a friend of Joe Dunagan and was
instrumental in his hiring, the Board, including Mr. Spezia, decided to go in another direction.
Mr. Spezia tendered his resignation to certain board members and the Mayor, as he is one
of the board seats appointed by the City of Danville. He indicated that he would resign in
September after one item of business was resolved and approved. The Board wishes him the best
of luck with his expanded roles in coaching and overseas professional sports organizations.
The Arena has a crop of new board members who have fresh ideas on how to improve the
Arena to better serve our Vermilion County community. We are looking forward and moving
forward to provide sports, entertainment, and fun to our community. In addition, we are striving
to have a solid work environment in which our employees can thrive. We are excited about the
future of the Arena