Japan: What we don’t know

By:  Diane Benjamin

We have no idea how many people went on the Japan trip.  We’ve heard numbers as low as 19 to over 35.  The names of those on this trip have not been produced under FOIA.

We have no idea who paid and what the total cost was – other than the bills I’ve found so far amounting to over $105,000.  https://blnnews.com/2017/08/08/ready-to-be-outraged/

One of my FOIA requests was for reimbursements made to the City.  The only one pertaining to Japan was the check for the flight from Margot Ehrlich.  That tells me none of the other expenses listed were paid for by the people on the trip.


Sister Cities is both a non-profit and a Committee under the City Bloomington.  They don’t file tax returns and it appears all their money goes through the City.  I FOIA’d a detailed general ledger of all Sister City accounts this morning.  Then it will probably take another month to get information of those transactions after the City extends the 5 days to respond.

This is why a State Police investigation needs to happen now.  A lot of money is involved and the City makes information available only when they feel like it.  We need to know who the City paid for and what legitimate public purpose the spending served.  What happened to foreign exchange students?  Now taking possibly dozens of people to a minor milestone (55 years) will somehow benefit the 78,000 people in Bloomington?  Maybe they are counting the free vacation for those who went!

I do know a farewell party was held at Lucca Grill and paid for on a City PCard.  Note the tip given – it’s easy to be generous when the money isn’t yours:

This email was also received:

What possible “public purpose” was served?

How is anything Sister Cities does anything more than travel junkets at taxpayer expense?  Is Tari going to Russia to collude next?

13 thoughts on “Japan: What we don’t know

  1. Hey. What’s going on with Kathy Michael, Chuck Erickson, and the possible open meetings act violations. Or is this blog just focused on wrong.


      1. They haven’t contacted me and I haven’t seen the email. If they want it covered I will get it – otherwise they let the Pantagraph print crap about them. It was their choice.

        It sounds to me like all involved need to actually read the Open Meetings Act before commenting on it.


      2. Rich–on this site, it doesn’t matter who you are if you break the law. The Republican Chairman of the County Board was heavily chastised on this site. All referenced information is available on government websites. Only public documents can be accessed. If as a citizen you ask the right questions, it is amazing what can be found by filing a FOIA request.


  2. Taxes were paid on this restaurant bill. I give generous tips to servers however the tip should not be included in the PCard charge even if the expense is allowed by law. The tip should be paid by the customer. What role does a server at a restaurant play for the function of government? These PCard holders are using it as a personal account.


  3. It looks like everyone got a huge meal (salad, appetizers, entrée, drinks). If we go with the total charge divided by the number of drinks (17, which assumes the coffees were before the meal, not after), you’re looking at $29.41 per person. That’s quite a bit of money per person for a group meal to go out on the taxpayers’ dime. That’s about what Renner spends each time he treats himself out to lunch several times a week.

    As far as the tip, perhaps the city needs to establish P-Card procedures that spell out tip levels that can be given (ex. no more than 18%). 25% is a very generous tip when it’s not your money. If they want to tip extra, fine. Pull out your own personal wallet and throw on another $10 or $20.


    1. I respectfully disagree about the City paying for the tip with a PCard. If the meal was a legitimate expense, the holders of the card should pay or have the group contribute. Gratuity for large groups is usually at 25%. The servers do not contribute to the function of government. The City and Sister City Commission are tax exempt. There should be no taxes paid when the PCard is used. These people have no clue about what they are doing and assume the money is theirs to spend as they see fit.


  4. Rich please for all of us share the dates and was it a committee or Full Board meeting ?
    You know you can file your own request for review left or right that is your citizen right to file. I do not see the reporting and documentation here to be left or right. Just mirrors those that are in office violating any law. Please note there are positive stories on here because I have seen them. If you want start a go fund this reporter page and maybe we can finally have a balanced media outlet we can trust will dig into the facts and get documentation.


  5. These junkets are just another little known government perk which has gotten out of control, like most government perks do. This is a wonderful example of why you should never allow a government to exist in the first place, especially one that uses its monopoly on violence and coercion to make us to pay tribute to it.

    Be it Caesar and his palaces or Tari Renner and his free lunches at Rosie’s and Destihl, the scale is irrelevant. Everyone here appears to be outraged with WHO did WHAT with the money. I am more outraged they have ANY of our money to begin with.

    /end Anarchist rant

    If there is some commercial/economic activity created because of these far flung excursions to the exotic far-east, then let the beneficiaries of these trips take over the Sister Cities program. Let those beneficiaries create a non-profit association, and then we can be done with it. They are more than welcome to invite the mayor along, if they want.

    I apply similar thinking to that group, the Downtown Bloomington Association.

    On the other hand, if there is no commercial/economic benefit, why are we paying for it?


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