BLOOMINGTON — Mayor Tari Renner has been chastised for a second time in less than three years by his peers on the City Council, this time informally, for actions that "bring disgrace to our governing body."
A letter — signed by Aldermen Jamie Mathy, Ward 1; David Sage, Ward 2; Mboka Mwilambwe, Ward 3; Joni Painter, Ward 5; Alderman Karen Schmidt, Ward 6; and Diana Hauman, Ward 8 — was presented to Renner during aldermanic comments at the end of Monday's meeting. Attached was a list of what they saw as the official and unofficial roles and responsibilities of both the mayor and aldermen.
"This letter serves as a statement of our collective disappointment in some of your actions," the aldermen wrote. "As elected officials, we are called upon to represent the citizens with respect and civility. Whether you did so as an individual or as the mayor, your recent interactions do not demonstrate respect or integrity."
The letter later said, "Your treatment of individuals with whom you disagree violates the shared values of the City Council."
In a related matter, the council voted unanimously to approve new procedures for paying or reimbursing elected officials' expenses. The ordinance prohibits elected officials from using city credit cards, also called procurement cards or p-cards, which had been at the heart of some of the controversy involving Renner.
“It would have been nice to have gotten it in advance,” Renner said after the meeting about receiving the letter. “It would have been nice not to have been blindsided. But I’m sure there are things in there that we can agree on and there are things that we don’t agree on.
“I don’t have time to beat dead horses,” added Renner. “I have to move forward. We have streets and sewers, economic development, Eastland Mall. We’ve got real things to worry about; not the fact that I would have sent an email to somebody who has been suing us for five years and calling him crazy.”
Meeks told The Pantagraph late Monday he has never sued the city.
Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black did not sign the letter. “We have real problems in the city of Bloomington, and a letter isn’t going to change the past,” he said.
The mayor had been the only elected official carrying a p-card, and he drew criticism last week after it came to light that he used his p-card to pay for a meal with Black while Renner was on a leave of absence as mayor. The mayor's office also remains under a state police investigation launched after the use of a p-card by a city employee this summer to pay for a $1,836 plane ticket for Renner's partner as part of a sister-city delegation to Japan.
While Renner's partner reimbursed the city shortly after the ticket was bought, critics questioned whether the charge was appropriate. One of Renner's frequent critics, resident Bruce Meeks, emailed city officials and McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers on July 31 to ask for a state police investigation.
In reply, Renner called Meeks "crazy" and "pathetic" in an Aug. 13 email. On Aug. 15, Renner also posted on WGLT's Facebook page a picture of a squirrel with the word “nuts” in response to comments critical of the Japan trip.
In the letter, the aldermen said Renner's lack of an apology or acknowledgement of his actions was unprofessional and hindered public dialogue.
All nine aldermen were given the opportunity to sign the letter, which was not read aloud but was shared with the media. Saying that they believed the letter speaks for itself, the six aldermen agreed before the meeting not to discuss it further.
In February 2015, the council unanimously approved a resolution rebuking the mayor after a late-night online rant in which Renner blasted a blogger who also frequently challenges him.
Monday was Renner's third council meeting since returning Oct. 1 from a five-week leave of absence from his elected duties that he requested Aug. 28 because of unspecified medical-related reasons.
Renner presided at the Oct. 9 council meeting, and aldermen said in their letter they expected him to acknowledge his errant behavior, apologize and express a "re-commitment to civil interactions with residents, employees and council."
"You chose instead to berate others for acrimonious behavior instead of calling for a renewed commitment to setting a standard of mutual respect that enhances all that is good in Bloomington, a standard that you could set by example but have chosen not to follow."