Battle heats up over who paid for Bloomington woman's trip with mayor
After taking some fire from supporters of Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) have shot back on their Illinois Leaks website.
The ECW recently reported on Renner allegedly using city funds to pay for his girlfriend to accompany him on a business trip to Japan. The airline ticket purchase came to light when Bloomington-Normal News Nobody Reports editor Diane Benjamin revealed the line item bills approved by the Bloomington City Council at its June 26 meeting.
On page 115 of the 140 pages of bills and payroll items, under "Administration City Council Expenses," two tickets for Japan Airlines appear: one for Renner and a second for Margo Ehrlich.
The mayor responded by claiming that the reports were false, threatening to seek legal action and demanding an apology. In addition, his supporters began posting claims that the tickets were paid for by a private individual -- which the ECW argued negated the mayor's earlier claim that Ehrlich had paid for the ticket herself -- and that the tickets were purchased as a block to ensure that the delegation would be able to fly together.
The ECW posted that the supporter later acknowledged that she did not pay for Ehrlich's ticket. The block of tickets for the delegates was listed under "SC Travel" on page 155 of of the expense report. The delegation's tickets were purchased a week before the disputed tickets.
When questions about the tickets were asked on the mayor's Facebook page, the comments were allegedly deleted and the posters apparently blocked. In an interesting turn of events, U.S. District Court Judge James Cacheris recently ruled in a Virginia case that a county official violated the First Amendment when she blocked a user from her Facebook page.
While Renner and his supporters continue to deny that public funds were used to pay for Ehrlich's airfare, the ECW submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the alleged reimbursement for Ehrlich's ticket. The FOIA requests remained unanswered at press time.
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