BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington resident Bruce Meeks on Monday publicly called for the City Council and state police to act against Mayor Tari Renner for allegedly intimidating Meeks, a frequent critic of his administration, and calling him "crazy" and "pathetic" in an early morning email.
"I asked for (the council) to take some action," Meeks told The Pantagraph during a break in a City Council work session at which he read the email during the time for public comments. The meeting was called to discuss Renner's proposal for hiring an assistant for the mayor and revising the Downtown Bloomington Association.
"I feel that it is comparable to what (Renner) was rebuked for in 2015," Meeks said, referring to when the City Council formally criticized Renner for a late-night online rant against a conservative blogger who also frequently challenges Renner.
"You truly do seem to be totally crazy as they come!" the mayor wrote in the email he sent at 2:46 a.m. Sunday.
"It's too bad we can't bill for the tens of thousands of dollars you cost the city taxpayers of Bloomington over absolutely nothing (that would be true justice!)," wrote Renner, referring to Meeks' frequent requests for information from the city through the Freedom of Information Act.
"It seems as if you do this kind of garbage because you don't have an actual job! Very sand (sic) and pathetic!"
Meeks said he has asked the Illinois State Police to look into the intimidation allegation, but The Pantagraph was unable to confirm Monday whether the state police are investigating.
Meeks alleged Renner chastised him for raising questions about whether a city credit card, called a procurement card or p-card, was improperly used to buy a $1,836 airline ticket for Renner's girlfriend, Margot Ehrlich. She accompanied Renner on a city-sponsored trip earlier this month to attend the 55th anniversary celebration of the Sister City Sister bond with Asahikwawa, Japan.
The city received a check for that amount May 26 from Ehrlich as payment for her ticket, according to documents The Pantagraph received from the city through a FOIA request.
Renner did not comment during the meeting because council members customarily do not address remarks made during the time set aside for public comments. He did address the matter later, during a time at the regular council meeting set aside for the mayor's comments.
"It seems like it's a show of silliness, lies and videotapes," he said.
Countering allegations that the ticket purchase violated the law, Renner said: "It's an absolute, total lie. The chief legal officer has said even if the particular ticket in question were paid for by the city — it was not — it would have been legal ... because the person in question was an official delegate of the Sisters Cities Committee and did have an official role.
"At the end of the day there were no policies that were violated. It was all something that was appropriate."
"That's one of the reasons why, I think, that very many good people do not even want to bother to run for public office because they know they or their loved ones are going to be trashed sooner or later by people who seem to have nothing better to do with their lives," added Renner.
The mayor's early Sunday email referenced an email Meeks sent July 31 to city attorney Jeff Jurgens, aldermen and McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers. In it, Meeks asked whether the city would ask for a state police probe into the airline ticket and other spending.
"My purpose for filing for a request for an investigation, which I have done, is to get clarity ... on what transpired with the public funds, not just for a single purchase related to a plane ticket to Japan, but there are other situations," said Meeks. "There also has been a long-term concern about using public funds for lunches."
Meeks said he talked to the Bloomington Police Department and was told to contact state police.
McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers told The Pantagraph: "My office has no role in this at at this time. If someone thinks they are a victim of a crime, they need to call police and file a report."