Watchdog group questions medical leave by Bloomington mayor
A government oversight group that has accused Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner of illegal credit card use is offering well wishes to Renner after he went on temporary leave this week "for medical-related reasons."
"The mayor's history on sincerity is questionable at best," Kirk Allen, writer and researcher for the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW), said in a McLean County Times email interview. "However, in the event he is truly dealing with a medical issue, he has our prayers for a rapid recovery."
Allen was quick to point out that ECW members aren't completely convinced Renner is dealing with a medical issue.
"We suspect the leave of absence is connected to the ISP [Illinois State Police] criminal investigation, but that is just our opinion," Allen said.
Renner, who was re-elected in April, announced his leave on Moday in a statement released by Bloomington City Hall.
"I have informed the City Manager and the Mayor Pro-tem of my plans to take a temporary leave of absence for medical related reasons," Mayor Renner said in the statement. "I have made this decision under consultation with my physician and my family. I am thankful that we have a strong and capable city council and city administration to manage the day-to-day activities in my absence. My family and I appreciate privacy during this time as I continue to focus on my health."
Renner became mayor in 2013 following three terms on the McLean County Board representing District 8.
This summer, the ECW alleged that Mayor Renner used his city credit card to pay for his girlfriend, Margot Ehrlich, to accompany him on a business trip to Japan. The trip was part of a 55th anniversary celebration in July of Bloomington's sister-city relationship with Asahikawa, Japan.
The ECW report cited an earlier BLNNews breakdown of the city's credit card spending, but Allen said there'd been another source as well.
"A tip from a concerned citizen is how we got word of the use of the city credit card for a private purchase," Allen said in his email interview.
The ISP began its investigation shortly thereafter, and Renner was quoted in the Pantagraph as saying he was aware of the ISP investigation but had done nothing wrong.
"The city administration and I, we all followed the law and the protocol for the city of Bloomington," Renner said i the article. "There were no violations and nothing questionable. Even if the city did pay for Margot's ticket, which it did not, it would not have been illegal because she was an official delegate to the once-in-every-decade trip."
In August, Bloomington resident and frequent Renner critic Bruce Meeks accused Renner of trying to intimidate him in a hostile email. Renner's comments in the email were likened to those he made in a blog entry that earned him a unanimous City Council censure in February 2015.
Should the ISP investigation confirm the latest allegations against Renner, he should do more than take a leave of absence, Allen said.
"A mayor caught in a lie after being exposed for violating both the law and City Policy should resign," Allen said.