By: Diane Benjamin
Under former Mayor Steve Stockton the Liquor Commission was headed by Stockton, but at least 5 citizens served on the Commission with him.
Tari Renner decided on his own to only have two people on the Commission. He got rid of the long time Commission members and picked two people he wanted. The Council said nothing.
Last year Renner tried to increase Liquor License Fees dramatically. The council refused to comply. During this time Tari decided that transparency was immaterial as he frequently met with one of the commissioners off the record to plot the fee increases.
Tari also attempted to change the City Code to reflect “Commissioner” instead of “Commission”. The Council also rejected that because he was attempting to crown himself king of liquor in Bloomington.
Remember, the Commission prior to Tari Renner operated transparently in scheduled meetings. Tari decided that was too much trouble and the meetings were too long, so he usurped the process with private meetings.
Citizen Bruce Meeks filed numerous Open Meeting Act violations against Renner for holding 1 on 1 meetings with commissioners because OMA was violated. 2 members constituted a quorum and therefore a meeting. Keep in mind the Liquor Commission has operated for decades in Bloomington as if the Open Meetings Act applied.
Tari threw a hissy fit and promptly declared himself the only commissioner and fired the other two members. Again, the Council said nothing.
The Public Access office ruled rather quickly considering their past history, but their ruling is based on State Law, not Bloomington’s Home Rule Code. This is their most recent determination:
Tari is now KING of Liquor since the AG ruled he appoints helpers and the Commission is not a Public Body. That voids any references in the City Code to the “commission”. Tari is now the “commission” with two people he appointed to do all the fact gathering boring work, but have no power.
Public Comment at Liquor Commission meetings is no longer required since the AG ruled the Open Meetings Act doesn’t apply. Since the Commission is not a public body, no votes are required – Tari just has two assistants to do the legwork for him.
Since the AG ruled the Commission isn’t a Public Body, that means there are no requirements to post scheduled meetings, take minutes, or publish agendas. The commission can make their own rules, since Tari is the “commission”.
The City Code says the Liquor Commission makes recommendations to the City Council on things like raising fees and approving liquor licenses. The AG ruling states the “commission” is NOT an advisory or subsidiary public body. If the Commission doesn’t advise the Council, it sounds like Tari can do whatever he wants without Council approval!
The Attorney General’s ruling voided everything in the City Code in favor of State Law. City Code says the “commission” will bring their recommendations to the Council, but the AG ruled the “commission” is not an advisory body, so doesn’t that mean Tari doesn’t need the Council to approve anything he wants?
Will Tari raise the Liquor License Fees without Council approval? Will he award or deny licenses based only on what he wants with no official record of what he does?
The Open Meetings Act was passed to protect citizens and ensure government operates in an open and transparent manner. Lisa Madigan’s Public Access office decided Tari can do whatever he wants, now it’s too late for the Council to hold him accountable.
The only avenue left for citizens is a lawsuit so a judge can decide if State Law takes precedence over Home Rule. Bruce Meeks is talking to a lawyer now about filing one. If you want to get in touch with him, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is one faster way to return power to citizens. Defeat Tari on April 4th. Why would Bloomington vote for a tyrant?
Below are two stories from last summer for context: