By: Diane Benjamin
Is the Metro Zone fight between Bloomington and Normal REAL, or a campaign stunt?
I’m leaning toward real.
Side Note: Normal’s budget for 2016-2017 was more than $120 MILLION. The estimated $1.2 million Normal would lose from Metro Zone represents 1% of their total budget. The Normal Town Council had no problem fleecing the citizens with another 1% Sales Tax, and thereby getting Bloomington to do the same. Since Koos thinks the citizens weren’t hurt, I bet the citizens think you are a crybaby.
Why do I think the war is on? I had to construct a timeline to reach this conclusion. The media seemed to have a lot of information long before the citizens did. Keep in mind Executive Sessions are SECRET MEETINGS that can only be held for very specific purposes according to the Open Meetings Act. Also keep in mind the Bloomington City Council refuses to release minutes from most meetings because they don’t want you to know who said what. Also keep in mind that Tari Renner has a history of holding illegal Executive Sessions while claiming to the press they weren’t, remember Judy Stearns walking out of an illegal meeting?. Renner even called Stearns’ claims totally ridiculous. It took the Attorney General YEARS to rule and we STILL don’t have the audio, but the AG declared Renner guilty: https://blnnews.com/2016/06/04/renner-is-guilty/
One more thing to keep in mind – there is NOTHING in the law that says an alderman can’t walk out of an Executive Session and talk about what went on. They just never do because the rest of the Council would vilify them for it.
The Metro Zone facts are pretty easy after I got the timeline constructed:
- Executive Session is held on February 20th citing “Probable Litigation” as the reason. The first problem is 60 minutes were scheduled. Discussing litigation that doesn’t exist violates the Open Meetings Act. Executive Sessions can’t be used for discussions the public should have been aware of. Note, nothing had been recently discussed in Open Council about Metro Zone before February 20th.
- On February 21st the Pantagraph printed the Metro Zone Council documents for the February 28th meeting. Bloomington had to have given it to them because this was WAY before they ever appeared on the City website.
- Also on February 21st a story was posted to WGLT’s website. ONE day after the secret meeting, somebody told WGLT the Council signaled in Executive Session they planned to dissolve Metro Zone. City Attorney Jeff Jurgens is quoted saying there is hope no litigation will occur. (Proof of OMA violation #1). Renner told the reporters for the story “he doubts there will be a lawsuit”. (Proof of OMA violation #2). See the story HERE Jeff Jurgens should be answering why he allowed the Council to conduct this illegal meeting!
- The WGLT story is what led Don Knapp from the State’s Attorney’s office to send an email to Jeff Jurgens on February 22nd demanding an explanation since it is very clear a probable Open Meetings Act violation took place.
- On February 28th Jason Chambers contacted Lisa Madigan’s Public Access office after he recused himself. This was a big mistake since Public Access could take months or years before they issue a ruling. Even if the violation is as obvious as this one, they aren’t going to act promptly. Jason Chambers was more than capable of handling this violation since Tari Renner had already hung himself by opening his big mouth. From now on Executive Sessions should NEVER be secret, especially when they break the law! Jason Chambers will evidently recuse himself from everything related to government since he knows everybody. Therefore, B-N doesn’t have a prosecutor for government.
- On March 2nd Renner held a press conference accusing Chris Koos of threatening a lawsuit clear back in September of 2014. He just happen to remember the exact month and year, probably because he had to justify claiming “probably litigation” when NONE existed.
If Renner had never open his big mouth to the press about what was discussed in the Executive Session nobody would have known. Renner indicted himself and the rest of the complicit Council who sat through the entire illegal meeting! Karen Schmidt, David Sage, and Jim Fruin have been on the Council long enough to know the law, I hear Steve Stockton was a stickler for following the Executive Session law. I haven’t heard a peep from them and they sure didn’t walk out like Judy Stearns did! I bet the Council thought it was fun to know what nobody else in town knew. Renner’s BIG mouth destroyed what little credibility most of the council had. We need the audio of that meeting, but we will probably never get it since we never got the Stearns audio.
This is yet another reason Tari Renner isn’t fit to be Mayor. Chris Koos crying over losing 1% of his revenue proves he isn’t fit to be mayor either. Both can easily be replaced on April 4th if people just vote. Stay home and for the next 4 years Bloomington will have a mayor who thinks laws don’t apply to him, and Normal will have a baby conducting meetings.
Just for reference, below is a lot of the timeline:
Executive Session (Secret Meeting) listing “Probable litigation” as the reason is held on 2/20/17. 60 minutes is allocated.
Executive Session http://www.cityblm.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=12020
The next day the Pantagraph prints the Council documentation about Metro Zone long before the public had access, so Bloomington obviously leaked it to them. These documents would not have been posted to Bloomington’s website until at least February 23rd for the 2/28/17 Council meeting.
February 21st – Normal statement on Metro Zone
On February 21st somebody told WGLT the Council in Executive Session decided to terminate the agreement. Bloomington Attorney Jeff Jurgens is quoted in the story, but so is Renner. He doubts there will be a lawsuit which means the Executive Session was illegal!
WGLT on the Executive Session http://wglt.org/post/city-town-dispute-over-tax-zone-erodes-trust
Email is written by Don Knapp to Bloomington Attorney Jeff Jurgens at 11:30am on February 22 questioning why Metro Zone was discussed in Executive Session. The Pantagraph printed in on March 3rd.
February 28 Chambers writes to AG – according to a note the Pantagraph printed on March 3rd with the Knapp email
February 28th-The day the Council vote was taken: