BLOOMINGTON — The roles of elected city officials will be discussed at the City Council's fall retreat Saturday — an issue the council addressed a year ago but was raised again two weeks ago when six aldermen chastised Mayor Tari Renner for bringing "disgrace to our governing body."
"I am very hopeful that we will make great progress at this retreat in working together and moving our city forward on many crucial fronts," Renner told The Pantagraph in a text message Wednesday, adding, "The main point is that we do a better job of understanding our respective positions within our current system."
While noting "there are many different city manager forms of city government," Renner said Bloomington's has "an empowered mayor with broad appointment, veto and line-item veto powers."
The council's fall retreat will be 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Den at Fox Creek Golf Course, 3002 Fox Creek Road.
The agenda calls for discussion and exercises on council priorities and procedures and officials' roles and responsibilities. Some budget planning matters also are on the agenda.
The council will not be voting on any matters.
"I look forward to a retreat that clarifies our focus, builds a stronger partnership with our staff, and provides a road map towards meeting our priorities and addressing our structural deficit," said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt.
Schmidt and Aldermen Jamie Mathy, Ward 1; David Sage, Ward 2; Mboka Mwilambwe, Ward 3; Joni Painter, Ward 5; and Diana Hauman, Ward 8 signed and presented a letter to Renner at the council's Oct. 23 meeting that stated Renner's treatment of people with whom he disagrees violates the shared values of the City Council.
"As elected officials, we are called upon to represent the citizens with respect and civility," the letter stated. "Whether you (Renner) did so as an individual or as the mayor, your recent interactions do not demonstrate respect or integrity."
Attached to the letter was a list of official and unofficial roles and responsibilities for the mayor and aldermen that the council endorsed by consensus at its two-day retreat in November 2016. It called for effective communication, civility, respect and cooperation within the city government and with the public.
It also called for more efficient use of city staff and officials' time and resources, including a provision that an alderman or mayor must get the signatures of "the ordinance-required" number of council members before filing a request for the city staff to pursue an initiative.
That provision was not included in a similar list provided in the council's packet of materials for Saturday's meeting.
Communication exercises the council participated in at last year's retreat were not listed for Saturday.
"Another discussion about (building trust) won't make a difference," said Painter, adding the retreat should focus on "hammering out the priority-based budgeting process so everyone is reading from the same page when we discuss the budget."
Renner said it's important for council members to stay in closer contact "to avoid misunderstandings and be sure we work more closely together. This includes promptly returning phone calls or texts, etc. I look forward to hearing what specific suggestions the council has as well."
Diane Crutcher, vice president of the Center for Performance Development Inc., will facilitate this year's retreat, which she also did last year.
The mayor's office is the subject of an ongoing Illinois State Police investigation. The specifics of the investigation are unclear, but the probe was launched after Renner blasted critics who raised questions about the use of a city credit card to buy an airline ticket for Renner's partner for a sister-city event in August. The $1,836 cost of the ticket was reimbursed before the state police investigation started.
Renner returned Oct. 1 after a five-week leave of absence from his mayoral duties because of unspecified medical-related reasons.