Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said Thursday he won’t let an Illinois State Police investigation into his recent trip to Japan become a distraction that derails his agenda for the city.
Illinois State Police confirmed the investigation Thursday.
“The ISP is conducting an open and ongoing investigation regarding the City of Bloomington Mayor's Office. Due to the confidentiality of this investigation, no further information is being released at this time,” State Police spokesman Master Sgt. Jason Bradley said in an email.
The investigation appears to involve Renner’s recent trip to Japan to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Bloomington’s Sister Cities affiliation with Asahikawa, Japan. Renner’s partner, teacher Margot Ehrlich, also made the trip, as did Normal Mayor Chris Koos. A City of Bloomington staff member bought Renner and Ehrlich’s airfare, though records show Ehrlich reimbursed the city about a week later.
Ehrlich was an official delegate on the trip, Renner said. That means "even if the city had paid for Margot’s ticket, it would not have violated any laws,” Renner said.
Bloomington city attorney Jeff Jurgens on Thursday declined to discuss city ordinances and whether the airfare and reimbursement are allowed as normal practice. He also declined to say whether the city had provided any documents to State Police investigators, though several media outlets—including GLT—have obtained records related to the airfare through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We will let that investigation play out and have no other comment at this time,” Jurgens said. “All of the inquiries that the city has received regarding those issues have been referred to the State Police.”
Renner called the investigation the result of “frivolous, ridiculous” charges from a small group of conservative critics, notably the blog BLNNews.com. Renner's aggressive online responses to his critics has drawn criticism of its own.
Renner said he has not been interviewed by State Police.
“I look forward to the results of the State Police report, because it’s going to show that absolutely everything on all the Sister Cities stuff was on the up and up. There was nothing at all that was mishandled by city administration in booking tickets for the Sister Cities trip.
"We have very tight control policies and procedures on our city’s finances,” Renner said. “At this point, I can’t let something like this be a continuing distraction,” he added, “because I’ve got a robust agenda to move the city forward and growing the local economy, fixing streets and infrastructure. When the report’s out then we can continue to move forward without even the slightest distraction.”
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