Bloomington mayor accused of using city funds for girlfriend's trip
Contrary to his demand for an apology from a website editor, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner owes the city one, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) contend.
Renner allegedly left a threatening comment on the Bloomington-Normal News Nobody Reports (BLNNews) website after editor Dianne Benjamin reported that the City of Bloomington paid for two Japan Airlines (JAL) tickets for Renner and his girlfriend, Margot Ehrlich, to sister city Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan. Renner claimed that Erhlich paid for her own ticket.
The ECW noted that Ehrlich is a teacher at Illinois State University – a public figure. In addition, if public funds were used to purchase her ticket -- even if she at some point reimbursed the city -- taxpayers have a right to know the circumstances.
"Human decency demands compliance with law and demands Truth about misuse of public funds," the ECW said. "Just because you are the Mayor, Mr. Renner, does not mean you get a free pass on alleged illegal activity.
The city's list of bills approved on the consent agenda at its June 26 meeting belie the mayor's assertion. Two $1,815.67 JAL tickets were listed on page 115, one each for Renner and Ehrlich.
The ECW contended that using public funds for non-public purposes, such as a plane ticket for the mayor's girlfriend, is against the Illinois Constitution. It also argues that a public official that improperly uses public funds could be charged with a felony.
The ECW pointed out that Lyndell Howard, the former mayor of Pekin, also illegally used public funds and paid for it with a felony conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld his 2005 conviction.