by: Diane Benjamin
Another Christmas is over, I hope you had a great one. Mine was a phenomenal 2 days surrounded by family, friends, and an awesome Christmas Eve church service. Time to go back to business though.
Mayor Renner and I used to talk occasionally both by phone and email. At times I knew I was used to get information out to the public that he wanted out. I don’t know if he realized I knew what he was up to, so if he didn’t : Tari, I knew.
The Mayor mislead me on the Ward Referendum that will be on the March ballot. I email him asking if he supported trying to change the Ward system because Alderman Fazzini copied him on every email. Instead of emailing me back, we talked by phone. He never said he supported the effort, he made comments like “I wish Rob had never done this”. Later I found out that the Mayor helped write the petition! https://blnnews.com/2013/12/05/more-on-mayor-transparency-renner/
Changing to the Ward system is a terrible idea. The plan discriminates against citizens because your representation isn’t spread equally across the Bloomington. The Mayor helped plan the effort and attempted to act like he didn’t. Nothing irks me more than politicians with a hidden agenda. The citizens have a right to know the entire story, who is behind it, and the reasons why. Government is FOR and BY the People, not underhanded misleading by the elected. I’ve written lots of stories on this topic, if you missed the basics – start with this one: https://blnnews.com/2013/12/20/its-five-and-3-not-six-and-3/. Elected officials need to state their opinions openly and let the people decide if they support the plan. It’s obvious why politicians have low approval ratings, too many use deceit to accomplish goals.
That brings me to Executive Sessions, another topic I’ve written extensively about. This controversy was hard to miss, but if you did: https://blnnews.com/2013/12/20/mayor-formerly-transparent-renner-sinks-himself/
Laws matter. Without laws politicians make their own rules. Citizens aren’t allowed to re-write the laws to their benefit, but politicians think they can. Mayor Renner did just that. Executive Sessions are FOR secrets, and only very limited secrets. See this post for the ONLY things that can be discussed in secret: https://blnnews.com/2013/12/21/renners-rant/
Mayor Renner is trying to justify what was discussed by saying everything was later discussed in public. He is re-writing the law. The public DOES NOT know exactly what was discussed in this secret session because it is illegal to discuss the meeting until the Council votes to release the minutes! Remember how the Council voted to NOT release former City Manager Tom Hamilton’s evaluations?
The state may also pursue criminal penalties against members of a public body who violate the Open Meetings Act. Maybe this is why Mayor Renner exploded over my posts. The rest of the Council should state their opinions on the record, after they review the law. Mayor Renner and City Manger Hales put the entire Council, with the exception of Alderwoman Stearns who walked out, in jeopardy. Any ruling by the Attorney General will be for or against the ENTIRE Council that sat through the Closed meeting.
What are the penalties that a public body may incur if it violates the Open Meetings Act?
Criminal Penalties: Under the law, a State’s Attorney may bring a criminal action for a violation of the Open Meetings Act. A violation of OMA is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/pdf/FAQ_OMA_Government.pdf Page 9
The law is very clear. The Mayor can not re-write Executive Session law because it suits a purpose. The Mayor and City Manger can not plot strategy behind closed doors. The law is there to protect the citizens. Mayor, acting like nothing illegal happened is no different from hiding that you are behind the effort to change the Ward system.
Citizens are entitled to Open and Honest government. They aren’t just entitled, they must demand it. When nobody is watching, government will stray from their lawful duties. We see this on a national level and now it’s obvious on the local level. Some local people will seek higher offices. If they know they can get by with violating the law locally, they won’t magically turn into law-abiding politicians in Springfield or DC.
I have a broad network of people who know government has to be watched. They will continue to feed me information and share what I write. All the elected have to do to stay off this site is follow the law and provide open and honest government. It’s not that tough if agendas and egos get tossed.
One more note: the tape of the meeting had better not disappear or suddenly be found to have been erased. Obstructing justice is very unbecoming Mayor.
Alderwoman Stearns is regularly vilified for promoting conservative values and Mayor Renner attacked me personally. I wonder if Stearns and I would have received the same treatment if we were males. Maybe they just don’t like conservatives caring about your wallet. Maybe it’s both . . .