Mayor Renner’s Clerk Finally Produces Uncensored City Council Meeting Video –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

Although the City of Bloomington violated the law by failing to produce requested records within the timeline established by the Freedom of Information Act, they did finally produce the unedited video from their November 14, 2016, City Council Meeting – but only after I called the Clerk to ask where it was.

What should concern the citizens of Bloomington is the fact this video was partially censored in the first place. Nobody granted Bloomington the right to censor its videos from the public, like the public is too “sensitive” to watch the entire public meeting without Mayor Tari Renner and his employees censoring parts they don’t want you to hear.

So this may not be a “child-friendly” video, with one word that most may deem offensive, it is a true reflection of what happened at the meeting, and citizens deserve uncensored access to what happens at their meetings.

Complete, uncensored video below:

https://youtu.be/ASF5gAShlh0

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Bloomington Censors Council Meeting Video & Violated FOIA –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

What was a simple request for a copy of a meeting video has turned into Mayor Tari Renner’s staff violating state open records law.

If Renner cannot control his staff, how can he run a city?

I requested an un-redacted copy of the Bloomington City Council’s November 14, 2016 meeting video because the video posted on Bloomington’s website is redacted, or doctored, to keep the citizens from hearing what was said during public comment.

Did Mayor Renner order the censoring of this video?

The answer I received from Andrew Coffey, the city clerk, was that the video was on their website, but when I checked, it was not there in its un-redacted form.

I replied to Coffey that his response did not provide the public record requested, and he responded back to me with the censored text of the video, but his email was also censored, and the text he provided did not match what I believe was on the video.

I responded once again that he did not comply with the request for public records.

Now, the mandated 5-day response to a FOIA request has passed, and the city has violated state law by failing to comply with the request.

Bloomington has been sued recently for FOIA violations -this is beginning to appear to be a pattern and practice of keeping public records from the public – all under Mayor Renner’s watch.

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Mayor Tari Renner’s Accomplishment? Bloomington Makes Most Dangerous City List –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

Mayor Tari Renner’s Accomplishment? Bloomington Makes Most Dangerous City List In Illinois –

Quite an accomplishment, Bloomington beat out Chicago’s daily slaughtering to be listed 2nd on list of the most dangerous cities in Illinois to live.

Tari Renner wants you to vote for him again this coming election – he isn’t done yet. Second place is the first loser.

According to an article on “Only in your state”, a website creating lists of different things about each state, like safest city, most dangerous city, and other things people like to read, Bloomington made the list this year, in the second spot on the list, for most dangerous city in Illinois to live.

They used crime data from 2014 and some from 2015 to come up with the list.

Bloomington was listed as having 238 aggravated assaults in 2014. Chicago is listed in 3rd spot, with East St. Louis coming in the top listed spot as most dangerous city to live in Illinois.

Read the listing here.

Kinda leaves you scratching your head…

(Title and article edited for clarity 12/31/2016 @ 2124)

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Shelbyville Township Electoral Board Cancels Meeting –

Shelbyville, IL. (ECWd) –

On our way to Chatham, Illinois for their city council meeting, we stopped off at the Shelbyville Township Electoral Board Meeting where they were to discuss a petition objection.

On our arrival, we noticed there was neither a Notice nor an Agenda posted as required under Section 2.02 of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Once the meeting was called to order, we informed the board of their failure to place the Notice and Agenda for public viewing 48 hours prior to the meeting.

On being notified of the alleged violations of the OMA, they did the right thing and canceled the meeting.

This shows what should happen when proper notice is not given, the opposite of the unprofessional conduct of the Bloomington Election Commission and their attorney, who have multiple previous violations of the OMA and don’t seem to care about it (see our previous articles on them here, here, and here). Maybe they could get a lesson from the Shelbyville Township Electoral Board on proper conduct.

We understand another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 3, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. for review the objection.

Video of this meeting is below:

https://youtu.be/8cpPfVc2fHQ

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Bloomington’s Coliseum Theft and Fraud Investigation reaches Minnesota –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

Curtis Webb, recently fired employee who worked for VenuWorks as Executive Director of the US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IL. is apparently being investigated in Minnesota for potential fraud and theft of funds form his former position at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, MN.

Diane Benjamin first reported on suspected fraud and theft of funds thru BLNNEWS.com. Her investigations led to her having to file suit in circuit court for access to public records being denied by the former coliseum managers. She has alleged the city of Bloomington failed its citizens when it refused to demand accurate reporting of income from the coliseum, leading to the city being undercompensated. Later, it was learned that Curtis Webb, the new director had allegedly been using funds improperly and he was charged with a felony, which has yet to be heard in court.

Read the following report from Bemidji Pioneer News below:

BEMIDJI — Bemidji city staff has received a summary report on possible financial improprieties during the tenure of the former executive director of the Sanford Center, who was later fired from his new job in Illinois.

Curtis Webb, 45, was the Sanford Center’s Executive Director from late 2012 until this past April, when he took on a similar role at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Ill.

He was fired from his position there on Oct. 14 after VenuWorks, an Ames, Iowa-based management company that oversees both facilities, found unauthorized usage of a company debit card.

As a result of that, financial probes were launched at both event centers. The Bloomington investigation led to Webb being charged with a felony in Illinois for allegedly taking an unspecified amount of money from the arena between . . . continue reading (click here).

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Bloomington Election Commission Delays Petition Objection Hearing Again –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

The Bloomington Election Commission and its Municipal Officers Electoral Board has rescheduled the hearing previously scheduled for Thursday (where they failed once again to properly post the agenda) for Friday December 9th at 2:30 p.m., or 1430 hours.

There are other petition objection hearings on Friday starting at 10:00 and lasting thru the one starting at 2:30 p.m.

Petitions objected to were:

  • Tari Renner
  • Diana DeSio Hauman
  • J. Balmer
  • Jeffery J. Fox (Fox withdrew from the race)
  • Joni Painter

You can read the agendas at this link (here).

What is still unclear to us, is how they can adopt hearing rules and hear the objections in the same meeting the rules were adopted in.




Bloomington Election Commission – A Third Open Meetings Violation –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

We have already pointed out two recent examples of the Bloomington Election Commission violating the Open Meetings Act, and have also found another one – from 2014.

The Commission admitted in a letter to the Attorney General’s office that it had violated the Open Meetings Act in February 2014 by failing to properly post the agenda for a public meeting.

It is unclear at this time whether the AG made a determination in this admitted violation in 2014 or not.

Their attorney, Robert Day, was present at this meeting also. He really needs to find another line of work and the Commission needs to find an attorney that will properly advise them of how to conduct a legal meeting.

Download (PDF, 23KB)

 




Bloomington Electoral Board – Not Their First Time Violating Open Meetings –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

In a day when adherence to the law is a revolutionary act, this one drives that message home.

An objection was made to the nomination petitions for Bloomington’s Mayor, Tari Renner – and he accused those wanting the law followed of being “fringe right-wing” people who are “trying to cheat to get on the ballot“.

So Renner blames the objector for pointing out petition irregularities, calling the person wanting to eliminate the cheating, a cheater for wanting the law followed. What a piece of work.

To top that off, the Bloomington Electoral Board attempted to hold a public hearing to hear the objection, only to be confronted by us and others for alleged violations of the open meetings act for having a meeting without it being properly posted.

The board’s attorney tried badgering and belittling citizens, the board tried to ban videotaping the public meeting, and the Bloomington police were called to the scene. It is clear from the below video, Attorney Robert Day’s only reason for wanting the police present, was because we were “interrupting” their meeting and he wanted to make sure we were sufficiently intimidated. I guess he didn’t realize we cannot interrupt a meeting that is not a legal meeting to begin with.

The board should demand a refund on all monies paid to their attorney for his actions in attempting to justify and hold an illegal meeting.

People might wonder what the big deal is about properly posting a meeting. It is simple. The law requires it, and in recent history, this electoral board, with this attorney, had a decision overturned by the Court and a name placed back on the ballot…because…the objection hearing was conducted in violation of the open meetings act. You would think they would learn from their mistakes – but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Renner also stated that voters have the right to sign petitions, and nobody has stated otherwise. What he failed to also mention in TV news interviews, was that voters also have the right to ensure all petition signatures are valid and actually signed by the voter of the political subdivision concerned – and not some other random person.

McDade v. Koetters (Docket Here)

The Meeting Itself Was In Violation Of The Open Meetings Act, And For That Reason, The Court Will Find The Results Null And Void

Back in 2013 a petition objection was filed against Jennifer McDade’s petitions for City of Bloomington Alderman. The Electoral Board, WITH THE SAME ATTORNEY THEY ARE STILL USING AT THIS HEARING, held the hearing and removed her name from the ballot. McDade appealed and won her appeal with the Court ordering her name be placed back on the ballot.

The appeal was won (see pages 3 and 4 below) because of multiple violations of the Open Meetings Act. The Court found all the Board’s actions during that illegal meeting as null and void for violations of the Open Meetings Act by: failing to take vote in open session, failing to close the meeting according to the Act, keeping no record of the closed session, failing to post a notice of the meeting, and failing to set an agenda.

The same things we complained about in their illegal meting on December the 5th, where the same attorney punked by the Courts in 2013 berated and insulted people attempting to ensure the board acted according to law. He obviously learned nothing and his employment needs to be terminated.

Video below:

https://youtu.be/P2Sob8tvd5A

Download (PDF, 441KB)

 

 




City of Bloomington Sued Under FOIA For Withholding Public Records –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

A lawsuit was filed on September 30, 2016, naming the City of Bloomington as Defendant. The suit alleges the city is withholding nonexempt public records in violation of the Freedom Of Information Act.

Bloomington has a recent history of FOIA violations.

The records sought were part of a murder investigation in which a person was convicted and is now serving time. According to the suit, this is an effort by the FOIA requesters to establish that Jamie Snow was wrongfully convicted of murder in 2001.

The records sought include recorded investigative interviews, wiretap orders, dispatcher recordings, proof of reward money payments, photos, and leads sheets used.

In one of the denials, the city is claiming it cannot reproduce cassette tapes and redacts names/birthdates, which is simply a made-up reason to deny the request. A simple usb device to record onto a computer from cassette tape, along with free audio software could easily reproduce and redact the interviews.

Loevy and Leovy is the attorney for Plaintiff.

Download (PDF, 1.89MB)

 




Watchdog Training in Bloomington, IL, Sep 24th –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

The Edgar County Watchdogs will be in Bloomington, Illinois with Americans For Prosperity Foundation on September 24th, from 8:00 a.m. until noon at the Holiday Inn and Suites for another round of Watchdog Training “101”.

watchdog-training-bloomington
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It is FREE, although registration is not required, we would appreciate registering at the below link so we can be prepared with enough seats, tables, and refreshments.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/afp-foundation-il-citizen-watchdog-training-tickets-27552883416

 




ECWd on Illinois Watchdog Radio – Cities 92.9 Bloomington –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

Our radio interview Ben Yount and Andrew Nelms talking about the watchdog training coming up tomorrow (Aug 20, 2016) in Springfield.

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AG: Mayor Tari Renner and Bloomington Council violated the Open Meetings Law –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

This past week, after a three-year delay, the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has finally issued a determination of an alleged Open Meetings Act complaint filed by former Bloomington Councilman Judy Stearns.

On November 15, 2013, Stearns, as councilman, was participating in a closed session meeting where the topics discussed were not an allowable exception to an open meeting. She voiced her objection to the discussion, walked out of the closed session, and later filed a complaint against the city for violating the Open Meetings Act.

That’s when the antithesis of “Not In Our Town” kicked in full force and Stearns was verbally abused by Mayor Tari Renner, in public, and was for the most part ostracized by some fellow Councilmen. We are glad to see that Truth does prevail!, however, we are just as upset that the AG’s office took two and a half long years to make what should have been a fairly routine decision – after all, they listened to the tapes.

Now, two and a half years later, the AG-PAC finally got around to making a determination, and that determination is that the City of Bloomington violated the Open Meetings Act by discussion things in closed session that are not to be discussed in closed session, and the city was directed to make the recordings of that meeting available for public review.

Download (PDF, 347KB)


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BloomingtonMaorRennerScratchingHead (WinCE)




McLean County Board Chairman indicted in Federal Court for theft, wire fraud totaling over $890,000 –

Chicago, IL. (ECWd) –

Bloomington, Illinois’ McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen, former State Farm employee, named in federal indictment coming out of the Northern District of Illinois.

The indictment, containing 14 pages and 8 Counts, claims that since 2004, Sorenson and co-workers submitted fraudulent invoices totaling over $890,000.00 and wire fraud related to the invoices. Sorrensen allegedly used two separate companies to bill for fraudulent consulting services.

He is scheduled to appear for arraignment on January 11, 2016, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason in Chicago.

Continue to blnnews.com to continue reading

Download (PDF, 55KB)

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Copy of the Indictment is below:

Download (PDF, 36KB)


Sorensen
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Bloomington, IL. Holds Over $636,000.00 In Unpaid Water Bills –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

Fresh from the Bloomington FOIA Officer is the below list of individuals and companies who owe the City of Bloomington over $636,000.00 in unpaid water bills.

It took several back and forth emails to get this list produced, but the city finally followed the law and produced it.

If you know these people, please tell them they are part of the reasons your property taxes keep increasing.

Some of the most notable of these debts belong to:

  • OSF Healthcare – $12,105.51
  • Carle Clinic – ~$5,000.00
  • Bank of America – $422.37
  • Fisca Oil Co., Inc. – $86,121.38
  • Lakeside Country Club – $818.15
  • McClean Co. Orthopedics – $470.45
  • Chateau of Bloomington – $13,904.68
  • Fenwood Associates – $4,327.62
  • “Current Resident” of 407 N. Hershey Rd. – $17,305.93

Download (PDF, 254KB)

In the alternative, you can see the addresses of those in arrears of water payments:

Download (PDF, 630KB)

 

Bloomington-IL-Logo

 




Bloomington, IL. conducts online bullying against “uncooperative media”? –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

So much for “Not In Our Town” – what’s happening under your watch Tari? Is your city actually using public funds, personnel and other public resources to terrorize the public, thru social media, who do not follow your warped visions of what Bloomington should be?

This issue will not go away.

So here is the issue:

A public employee of the City of Bloomington appears to have been busy setting up numerous facebook and twitter accounts in order to trash certain people and businesses that have been asking hard questions of the city and its Mayor. This is the typical childish behavior demonstrated daily by those who don’t like the public knowing what their public officials have been doing. They sneak around in the dark of night, or in this case the supposed anonymity of the internet, in order to push their agenda of punishing anyone who dares question their activities. Wrong answer.

The below article comes from blnnews.com in Bloomington, Illinois.

Nora Dukowitz was hired by the City of Bloomington to be the Communications Manger.  Why Bloomington needed one is still a mystery.  Hales claimed in this Pantagraph article that Nora would play a critical role in outreach to citizens, he also stated she would use social media to engage citizens:  http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/government-and-politics/city-hires-communications-manager/article_f4bfe4e6-ec94-5cf7-a2c7-5c8a58a36771.html

I wonder if the City of Bloomington is directing what Nora does or if she has gone rogue?

On Facebook Nora goes by Nora Katherine.  Her resume states her middle name is Katherine and she’s from Casey Il.  See it here: Dukowitz, Nora K .  Enjoy the part about her being homesick.

Her Facebook page says she’s from Casey too!  She also has a lot of City employees as “Friends”:  Tina Salamone, Diana DeSio Hauman, Andrew Coffey, Beth Oakley, Scott Black, Renee Gooderham, Tom Dabareiner, Joni Painter, Karen Schmidt, and probably many more.

Sorry, if you don’t have a Facebook account you can’t see what I’m talking about.

Other than been afraid to use her real name, Nora “Likes” a lot of pages.  One was a page started to attack Cities 92.9 and me.  Remember when Nora wanted Fistbump (Cities 92.9 reporter) arrested for knocking on her door?  Then she filed a lawsuit and dropped it!

Wait until you hear the name of the page:  Shtty929  Since Nora “Liked” the page, it shows up on her page plus Facebook ads promote the page to all her 400+ friends!

A couple of weeks ago a Blnnews Facebook page appeared – it wasn’t me.  It was dedicated to attacking me however.  I reported the page to Facebook, but they had already taken it down for unrelated reasons.  Then the page was reincarnated as Unofficial Blnnews – it has a whopping 9 “Likes” – one is from Nora Katherine and one is from Shtty929.

Isn’t that a coincidence!  Two Facebook pages exist to attack me and Nora is one of the few people who have  “Liked” both!

But wait – there’s another one only a couple of days old.  It only has 7 “Likes”.  It’s Blono Watchdog.  Of those 7 “Likes”, one is Nora.  Also Unofficial Blnnews, and Shtty929 have “Liked” the page.  Pictures on the pages are identical or very close.  I wonder if the Pantagraph knows their pictures of me were altered and used!

Isn’t it funny that Nora is the center of all three pages.  They all have posts during City business hours, is Nora posting on Facebook sites like these while she is supposed to be working?  If she is posting on City hours, is Hales and Renner directing her actions?

It is sad that issues can’t be discussed, it’s always attack the messenger, not the facts.  Worse, by “Liking” these attack pages, Nora is spreading her hateful messages to all her “Friends” and many City employees.

Remind anybody of when Tari attacked me twice?  http://blnnews.com/2015/02/11/tari-attacks-me-again-not-in-our-town/  At least he had the … continue reading at BLNNEWS.com

NoraDukowitz

Nora Dukowitz – photo from hootsuite.com




Tari Renner’s Bloomington: Becoming Less Transparent Everyday –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

Another lawsuit Bloomington?

By:  Diane Benjamin

I’ve said this many times, but I will repeat it again.  If I send a Freedom of Information request to Normal I actually get the information I want.  No games, no attempting to circumvent the rules, just transparency.

Bloomington will HIDE, IGNORE, PRETEND the rules don’t matter, and go to any lengths to NOT release the requested information.

Documents belong to the people – they paid for them.  The City of Bloomington has NO money it didn’t take from citizens, therefore operating with honesty and integrity is a prerequisite for good government.

Since Bloomington doesn’t follow the law, the opposite of good government must be presumed.  Information is only hidden if there is something to hide.

Here’s the latest Bloomington blunder:

A request was made for a list of past due water bills.  Bloomington eventually came up with the list, minus the names of who was past due.  Addresses were included, the list totaled almost $400,000.

The City picked the wrong requester to mess around with, it was filed by one of the Edgar County Watchdogs.  Below is John Kraft’s response to the City’s nonsense:

From: John Kraft
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2015 4:14 PM
To: Andrew Coffey
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information Act request
Mr. Coffey,
Please forward this opinion (link below) to the Water Department and ask them to unredact the names on the past due accounts.
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Any further refusal to comply with the Freedom of Information Act will result in my seeking access thru the Circuit…
Continue reading on blnnews.com (HERE)
BloomingtonMaorRennerScratchingHead (WinCE)



Bloomington, IL. passes new public comment policy –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

During Bloomington’s City Council meeting on July 13, 2015, public comment started at around the 2:10 mark in the video.

ECWd’s Kirk Allen spoke second, but the city somehow decided to delete his comment and others from the video (unless it was an inadvertent glitch in the recording?).

ECWd’s John Kraft spoke later, at 22:05, with the suggestion that they extend the comment time to at least 30 minutes per meeting, referencing this information contained in this article.

There were many others that talked about the proposed public comment policy.

At around the 1:07:32 mark, the City brought the matter to discussion and vote. Alderman Kevin Lower motioned to extend the public comment sessions to 30 minutes at each meeting, which would double the time currently allowed.

Alderman David Sage, the lone dissenter, talked about his thoughts that “most of the time” they do extend the time limit – but he failed to understand that the Mayor has in the past refused to extend the time when he saw his opposition ready to speak. In my opinion, Mayor Renner has used this time limit as a controlling mechanism over the public.

Alderman Amelia Buragas brought that point up in her comments, saying that she did not like the idea of the absence of guideline on rule suspensions that come with the 15 minute time limit – she suggested adopting the 30 minute time limit.

ECWd would like to thank those aldermen voting in favor of extending this time limit and voting in favor of enhancing the ability of the public to comment at its meetings.

City Council video of the July 13, 2015 meeting is below.

Bloomington-IL-Logo




Watchdogs mentioned on Cities 92.9 with Ian Bayne –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

Ian Bayne on Cities 92.9 talked about a recent article of ours where we surveyed cities similar to Bloomington to compare public comment policies.

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At about the 11:55 minute mark in the audio below:

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Bloomington – a survey of public comment policies –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

I recently conducted a survey of cities similar in size to Bloomington, IL., including cities in Illinois with a population of between 58,000 and 108,000 residents. Bloomington has 76,610 according to the 2010 census, and falls in the middle range of this survey. So this is a good sample of various municipalities.

The public comment rules below indicate what was written and established in their posted city codes, and what is annotated in the meeting agendas. Please notice the complete absence of the restriction(s) currently employed by Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County.

Of the 12 municipalities surveyed, eight had a three minute per speaker time limit, three had a five minute per speaker time limit, and one had no time limit.

Five municipalities had public comments at general comment time and at each agenda item, and none (other than Bloomington) asked for advanced notice of any kind.

Only two municipalities stated any total comment time limits, Decatur (15 min)(with additional agenda comment time) and Evanston (45 min).

Although not noted below, only one municipality restricted comment subjects, and it was stated as no “political candidate advocacy” during public comment time.

Elgin – 3 min. – sign up prior to meeting
Waukegan – 3 min.
Cicero – 3 min.
Champaign (City) – 5 min. (on a topic) AND 5 min. during open comment session
Decatur – 3 min. – 15 min. time limit (general comments) AND 3 min. agenda item comments
Arlington Heights – 3 min. (general comments) AND 3 min. at agenda item
Evanston – 3 min./15 min. total if 5 or fewer speakers – if > 5 speakers, then 45 min. total
Schaumburg – 3 min. – may modify rules to PROMOTE participation
Bolingbrook – 3 min.
Palatine – No time limit – Anyone on agenda item AND general comments
Skokie – 5 min.
Des Plaines – 5 min. non-agenda AND 5 min. agenda item

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Mclean County and the City of Normal were not surveyed as they did not fall within the municipality population similar to Bloomington, and even if they were, they would be considered outliers, and are in violation of the Open Meetings Act with the stated restrictions imposed that are not designed to enhance public participation.

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Now to the June 22, 2015 Bloomington City Council Meeting:

At approximately  the 55:44 mark in the below video, Mayor Renner talked about public comment and went on for more than 4 1/2 minutes about everything that did not pertain to the statutory requirement of having public comment time during all public meetings. Not once did he acknowledge the citizens have a RIGHT to speak at all open public meetings in Illinois. Listening to him, one would get the impression he is somehow advocating for public comment, which is simply not the case.

At 1 hour and 15 minutes, the city attorney explained how he came to the proposed ordinance – it was tabled. All I heard were excuses of why it was too hard to comply with state law, while claiming these new rules would be helpful and not hinder public comments.

At 1:06:45, the council discusses the proposed ordinance, and it is quite obvious the Mayor was attempting to force its passage.

At 1:28:50, Alderwoman Hauman stated that she did some research on cities similar in size to Bloomington and that “it runs the gammut” of between 3 and 5 minutes. She failed to state that none of them have any further restrictions nor a requirement to provide any advanced notice. As I showed above, only 2 of the 12 municipalities I surveyed had any overall public comment time limits – one was 15 minutes (with additional agenda item comment time) and one was 45 minutes.

Bloomington’s proposed public comment ordinance can be found on pages 196 thru 202 of this board packet.

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I suggest that the City of Bloomington adopt a new public comment policy that consist of  a 3 or 5 minute time limit per person, with a 30, 45 or 60 minute overall time limit – 30 minutes should be the minimum for a city the size of Bloomington. No other rules are needed.

BloomingtonMaorRennerScratchingHead (WinCE)

Renner scratching head over public comment rules




Bloomington’s Pantagraph should shutter its doors –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

The Pantagraph newspaper is doing the citizens of Bloomington, IL. a disservice by advocating for the City of Bloomington to violate the free speech rights of everyone that attends a city council meeting (read how they betray the trust of their readership here).

Newspapers have a fundamental responsibility to the public they serve, to shine the light on government – NOT to advocate that a government limit the speech rights of citizens.

This is a shining example of all that is wrong with main stream media and local newspapers today. They have become the puppets of their puppet-master advertisers, and the subjects of their public officials.

The Pantagraph has equated the statutory right of public comment at public meetings with the choices it makes as a newspaper in printing letters to the editor. There is no comparison, the first is a RIGHT, and the second is at the discretion of the paper.

Then they say the city is “doing its job” if it puts limits on public comment. When the reality is that the city is violating the rights of the public with the rules it has proposed to adopt. Rules must enhance the public’s ability to address the board, but apparently the Pantagraph must think people should by forcibly silenced.

Next they talk about the City of Normal and County of McLean’s rules – conveniently forgetting to mention that those rules violate the Open Meetings Act and cannot survive a legal challenge. Pantagraph even goes so far as urging the City of Bloomington to adopt the most restrictive set of rules we have ever seen. This action would only invite litigation and I predict the city would lose, needlessly costing the taxpayers more money.

Finally, they claim the city has important business to discuss and shouldn’t have to waste its time messing with trivial issues like public comment citing “ample” opportunities to contact their elected officers. The Pantagraph must have forgotten that the Illinois Legislature has stated public comment during public meetings is a RIGHT – and violations of that right can subject public officials to arrest, criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. No other opportunity to address public officials is a right – except for public comment at meetings.

One thing I have noticed after several years of investigative reporting, is that when public bodies start changing rules, especially rules for public comment, to further restrict the public’s ability to address and petition their government, there is something that public body is trying to hide – and it is only a matter of time before we find out what it is.

To the Pantagraph, I say shutter your doors now, you would do the citizen a better service to quit and go home, than to stab them in the back by publishing opinions like this one.

Media’s refusal to remain silent is the first line of defense against public corruption.

Bloominton-IL-Logo (WinCE)




The Pantagraph’s Steve Vogel’s epic failure at journalism –

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –

I usually try to stay away from commenting on what others report since I know my writing is not perfect and everyone can use improvement, however, when it comes to complete ignorance and any lack of common sense, I must step in and attempt to correct their failed reporting.

Steve Vogel, an alleged “journalist”, decided to take a stab at the First Amendment like it was a freshly smoked possum waiting to be carved into pieces unrecognizable before being served to the unsuspecting public. This comes immediately after city employee Nora Dukowitz’ failed, embarrassing, and offensive attack on media, which I’m sure Vogel is still in mourning its failure.

I will use his name because he desperately craves the attention, and also in the hopes that some of the remaining readers of his will finally pull the plug and seek out their news elsewhere.

He decided to try and equate the public comments of a Cities 92.9 radio station employee with those of the American Nazi Party, and the “church” that pickets funerals. Although they are all protected speech, there is really no comparison between them, unless you think its fair with equating the Pantagraph to the North Korean Central News Agency or the former East German Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst. After all, all three of them toe(d) the line of those in perceived power without proper questioning.

Vogel’s article is typical of how traditional media has been failing its readership to the point where it is almost nonexistent. The idea of [traditional] media as the “Fourth Estate” – monitoring the government to make sure they don’t abuse the democratic process – has all but disappeared from the today’s media landscape.

So Vogel accuses “Fistbumb”, of “usurping” public comment. He must have forgotten the definition of “usurp”, which is “to take illegally, by force, or to infringe upon someone else’s rights”, which was definitely not the case in that public comment session. He had the right to speak, and he was given the floor by the “mayor”. He infringed on no one’s rights, and took nothing illegally.

Next, Vogel describes public comment rules at other public bodies he if familiar with. He conveniently leaves out the part where their rules violate the Open Meetings Act by restricting the right to speak as opposed to enhancing the right to speak. He talked about Normal’s rules requiring signup 2 hours prior, and McLean County’s rules of 24 hours and 5 days notice – calling it a “request”, like a person must ask permission or something. Both of those scenarios are violations of the Open Meetings Act, but Vogel won’t conduct enough research to let his readers know it. Instead, he simply acts like a cow being led around with a chain tied to its nose ring.

Then, he implied the speaker “imposed” a moment of silence, forgetting that a speaker can impose nothing on his audience.  He insinuated that he would have brought the gavel down on the speaker’s silent reflection on the money they have spent, meaning Vogel has no tolerance for the First Amendment unless it conforms to his way of thinking. By the way, silence is a form of speech.

What a waste of space. To claim to be a reporter, and then speak out against the First Amendment rights of those wishing to use the RIGHT to address the PUBLIC OFFICIALS during public comment. Maybe he should report for the [North] Korean News Agency…

Finally, I will end this section with this: At a later meeting, Alderman Diana Hauman left the meeting when Cities 92.9, Brother G, stepped up to the microphone, which, in my opinion, violated the Open Meetings Act and USURPED the right of the speaker to address the public officials during public comment.Why don’t you write on this usurpation Steve?

The OMA does not say they have a right to address only those public officials the choose to stay and listen. It says people have a right to address the public officials – meaning all of them that are attending the meeting. Mayor Renner and the City Council should censure Diana Hauman for leaving the room and violating the people’s  rights contained within the Open Meetings Act.

Vogel claims to have talked with Gene Policinski of the Newseum Institute First Amendment Center, which purports to be the Champion of the First Amendment. But he didn’t say how that conversation went, only that he talked to him about this subject. I would be interested in how the conversation went so I would know if they were truly “Champions of the First Amendment” or if it was all a smoke-screen and they were only champions of the speech they agreed with.

Steve, did you frame the issue for Gene Policinski? Could you speak to him again about the aftermath of Nora Dukowitz’ embarrassing and offensive attack on free speech through the attempted use of a Restraining Order? Could you tell him Mayor Renner lied again by claiming a felony had occurred and was being investigated when no such thing had happened? No, you probably didn’t and won’t. You simply needed support for your flawed view of free speech, a view of it that applies to you, but not to the people you disagree with.

Steve Vogel, you failed miserably on this one and should apologize to whatever readership you have left, before they leave also. It is offensive for an alleged “reporter” to level such an attack on the First Amendment and Open Meetings rights of citizens. You should be ashamed of yourself for even trying to pass yourself off as a journalist or reporter if this is how you feel. If you have a journalism degree, please burn it and post a picture.

The meeting in question, February 23, 2015, is below, and the public comment in question starts at about the 11:20 mark in the video:

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Bloomington’s Nora Dukowitz refuses questions, files restraining order on reporter –

BLOOMINGTON, IL.

Another public employee that thinks they do not have to answer questions – and this one has the job of answering questions…

Edgar County had a county board member try this stunt last year – and it failed miserably… (read it here).

As reported on USofArn.com

City Of Bloomington’s Comm Director Seeking Restraining Order Against Reporter For Asking Questions

Nora Dukowitz

On Friday Nora Dukowitz, the Communications Director for the city of Bloomington, IL had a local talk radio reporter Josh “Fistbump” Schmidgall served with a Restraining Order and is attempting to keep him and his employer The Cities 92.9 FM from asking questions of Ms. Dukowitz and the city.

Schimdgall and The Cities 92.9 have been attempting to get Ms. Dukowitz and the city of Bloomington to explain why a city employee was given a raise.

Those repeated request have been met with silence from City Hall and Ms. Dukowitz.

On Monday May 18th Schmidgall sent and email to Dukowitz again asking for information on or an explanation for the raise.  When Dukowitz didn’t respond to that email Schmidgall went to Dukowitz’s home and left his business card on the door when no one answered.

Ms. Dukowitz found that to be so harassing and intimidating that she filed for the restraining order and is seeking to have Mr. Schmidgall barred from both City Hall and her residents.

And to top it all off Ms. Dukowitz is also asking for a court to revoke Schmidgall’s Illinois Firearms Owner Identification Card, which is required in Illinois to even legally touch a firearm, and to have his skeet shooting shotgun confiscated.

Host and staff at The Cities 92.9 and Mr. Schmidgall find this whole episode to be a blatant assault on the Freedom of the Press and on the First Amendment rights of the station and Mr. Schmidgall.

The Cities 92.9 along with Tea Party blogger Diane Benjamin, who alerted me to this extremely troubling situation, are the only press in Bloomington that — continue reading here…




City of Bloomington loses handwritten FOIA lawsuit; writes check –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

A local watchdog by the name of Diane Benjamin, from blnnews.com, has won a pro se lawsuit she filed against the City of Bloomington for their unlawfully withholding public records and other violations of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Court ordered production of records and payment of the fess/costs incurred by Diane Benjamin.

The interesting part of this entire story, is that it all started out with a handwritten Complaint (below) filed at the McClean County Courthouse. She was the first person ever to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in McClean County history. While she did eventually file a typed amended complaint, all the resources and funds the city threw at this lone citizen failed, and Diane came out the victor.

Diane is a shining example of how one person can make a difference, all that is needed is the will to stand up do what is right.

Diane was the key that lead to all the exposure of HFS and the Boston boat ride parties by state employees, not to mention the $180 Million dollar no bid contract with CNSI through Michigan.  While simply walking her precinct she ran into a person who had a story to tell.   A state worker who knew what was happening was wrong! She listened!  Now, from that one discussion, multiple federal investigations are well under way!

One person can make a difference! 

Read her article on this court victory over Mayor Tari Renner and the attorneys for the City of Bloomington here…

Ladies and Gentlemen, feast your eyes on the historical first FOIA lawsuit in McClean County history:

Download (PDF, 1.1MB)




Bloomington, IL. Mayor Renner Censured by City Council for offensive comments –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

On Friday, February 20, 2015, the Bloomington City Council held a Special Meeting and Censured Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner for his offensive comments towards a local writer who wrote things he did not agree with.

Here are some of his comments leading up to this:

NO! Diane! It shows what an ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL PIECE OF GARBAGE you are -actually worse because garbage can be converted into something useful – you are a TOTAL ABSOLUTE HUMAN CANCER! PLEASE quote me on that! I haven’ checked this site in ages because it’s mostly crazy bullshit -to be charitable! But, WHEN YOU ATTACK MY SON YOU ARE GOING TO PAY THE PRICE YOU SICK DIRTY SLIMY IGNORANT FOOL! And, frankly, that’s raising you to a level you ABSOLUTELY don’t deserve!
Nothing you ever report on this site makes any sense because I will give people anything they want to know about their government. Diane you REALLY are the craziest human being I”ve ever known. This WILL be my last post on this sick site of the worst part of humanity! The fact that some of you still think you’re Christians is PATHETIC! There is a special place in hell for you!

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Watch the video and read the Censure Resolution: Click here: blnnews.com

 




Bloomington City Council feeding their face on your dime –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

People wonder why taxes keep rising while their living conditions deteriorate. Here is one of those reasons.

On the agenda for the Monday night’s Special Meeting (Oct 13, 2014), that states it will start at 5:00 p.m., is a comment stating “light dinner at 4:30 p.m.

Seeing that, I called and thanked them for providing a meal and asked what was on the menu because I would be ready to eat when I arrived, and I was promptly informed that the food was for council members only.

Upon hearing that, I asked if the council discussed public business during this “light dinner” and was told that they do, and if it was executives session discussions they would eat with the doors closed. So I pointed out that the meal was at 4:30, and the agenda says the meeting starts at 5:00, and those discussions over dinner would constitute an illegal meeting. I was then informed that they did not know whether or not public business is discussed over dinner and that I would have to talk to a city councilman to find out.

I believe that: 1) the councilmen are feeding their faces and forcing you to pay for it, and, 2) that it is hard to believe the council would eat together in the same building just 30 minutes prior to a meeting and not discuss public business, and, 3) that this constitutes an illegal meeting UNLESS a proper agenda is posted at least 48 hours prior to this “light dinner”, and, 4) that the receipt of this dinner constitutes an illegal increase in pay during their term of office, and, 5) use of public funds for this purpose is a constitutional violation of Article VIII Section 1 (a) and (b) of the Illinois Constitution.

See the currently published agenda below:

Download (PDF, 9KB)




Mayor Teri Renner (Bloomington, IL) caught trying to violate Open Meetings Law –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

Truth be told, I was still arranging to be in Bloomington, Illinois on Friday morning to take care of business reminiscent of the Clark County Park District incident (here) from earlier this year when I received word of these cancellations. Mayor Teri Renner had planned a “retreat” for the city council for Friday and Saturday, but did not post the required public notice nor the agenda for this public meeting.

Someone must have caught wind of this and Renner canceled the Friday meeting, then posted an agenda for the Saturday meeting on their website. The problem arose again, because there were less than 48 hours between the posting of the agenda and the start of the meeting – and the notice was never posted at the location of the proposed meeting as the law requires. Within a few hours, Mayor Renner canceled the Saturday meeting also.

Renner has taken the Open Meetings Act training and should have known the meetings were to be posted and where they must be posted at.

The importance of this situation in Bloomington is that this very same “retreat” from last year is still under review by the Illinois Attorney General for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act during an executive session – a complaint that was filed by a city alderwoman after discussions turned to items not allowed by law to be discussed in executive sessions.

More articles written on this subject are below:

http://blnnews.com/2014/10/09/mayor-renner-violates-the-open-meetings-act-again/

http://blnnews.com/2014/10/09/its-a-big-deal-tari/

http://blnnews.com/2013/12/19/bloomington-hit-with-another-open-meetings-act-investigation/




Bloomington’s Alderman Fazzini tries restricting public comments –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

When I became aware of Bloomington’s text amendment to their Public Speaking Policy was on the agenda again, I took the liberty at writing a letter in an attempt at convincing the city aldermen to change the wording to better comply with the Open Meetings Act. I focused on two items included in their proposed amendment: 1) the 15 minute time limit, and 2) the sentence where they think the public has no right to speak at public meetings they determine to be “work sessions”.

Download (PDF, 67KB)

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This round of the text amendment comes after an earlier attempt in which I also wrote a letter to the council. The agenda item removed at the city council meeting after I sent the first letter. Here is what I talked about in that letter:

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Mr. Hales,

I reviewed the text amendment to Public Comment, and the way it is written still violates the Open Meetings Act.

First is public comment at special meetings where at least one potential action item is listed. I believe that is an OMA violation; nothing in the statute lists an actionable agenda item as a prerequisite for public comment.

Second, paragraph 5(b) should be removed. You can’t force people to show up 15 minutes early and you can’t force them to write down their name and contact information (unwarranted invasion of privacy).

Third, under 5(d) – you cannot make someone state their address; it is an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Thanks,
John Kraft

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Bloomington did make an adjustment in the text amendment after this email, but still had unreasonable restrictions included when it passed under the consent agenda this week.

Now to Alderman Robert Fazzini:

It appears he is doing whatever he can to limit public comment, even to the point of violating the law. If he had taken the required training on the Open meetings Act he would have known his proposed changes would violate the law. This is what he wanted the public comment policy to include:

“Public comment should be once per month rather than every meeting, and, Retain the portion of the current ordinance that a person who speaks at a meeting be ineligible to speak again for two calendar months.”

Sorry Bob, those rules would violate the law, and thankfully the City of Bloomington did not include these in their policy. I guess the real question would be: Who do you think you are?

The point I am trying to make here, is that Mr. Fazzini does not want to hear from his subjects that elected him, and that’s why this law (Open Meetings Act) was made, to protect the rights of the citizen.

Bloominton-IL-Logo

 




Corruption Does Pay for Sue McLaughlin – $85hr!

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

In yet another example of the sickness in this state, we have another ethically challenged public official that finds herself right back in public service in less than a year, but there’s more!

Sue McLaughlin, disgraced former Mattoon, Illinois City Manager was terminated from her job without cause (Click here for council minutes – page 9) stemming from her alleged attempt to sell city property to her fiance for less than its real value in a 4-1 vote back in June of 2012.  (Click here for our first coverage on that event) The original motion and second was “for cause”, but was amended by a city council member. The amended motion to terminate “without cause” passed.

January of 2013 she landed herself another public sector job as the interim City Manager in Lincoln, Illinois through the help of Gov Temps (now GovHR), a hiring agency.  The city of Lincoln web site reflects that she is currently the City Manager. (Click here for link to City of Lincoln web site)

In what is a shock to many in Bloomington, this same person has now been hired through the same agency to be the interim City Manager of Bloomington at a rate of $85 an hour, which depending on hours worked could lead to at least a $175,000.00 a year paycheck.

Does it concern anyone that a public official who tried to sell property to her fiance for less than its real value, is removed by one city, to only be hired by not one, but two other cities?

What does it take to purge our public offices from these types once and for all?  According to BLNNews the Mayor did not know about her corrupt self serving actions in Mattoon.

Should public employees that are outed for self serving unethical activity be allowed to ever work in the public sector again?

Therein lies the duty of the councils, boards, and State’s Attorneys. Without them taking legal action to prosecute these individuals, they will continue to plague our public service system.

 




Bloomington Corporate Counsel Lied On FOIA –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

Rosalee Dodson, Assistant Corporate Counsel for the City of Bloomington, has been caught signing her name to a lie. Whether she was aware of the lie or not is yet to be seen, but as the signatory she is the person responsible for it even if she did not complete the redactions on the documents.

A contributor to blnnews.com submitted a FOIA request for some emails that she knew had been sent from another municipality. Bloomington’s Legal Department responded with a heavily redacted document claiming the redactions were “personal” and “private” information which they were not.

Read more here and see the redacted and actual documents…




Bloomington (IL) Mayor Tari Renner Attacking Citizen Comments –

BLOOMINGTON, IL. (ECWd) –

It has recently come to our attention that the Mayor of Bloomington, IL., Tari Renner, has a problem with people speaking the truth and people insisting the Open Meetings Act be followed. If there was nothing to the alleged violations, why is he so upset?

He recently attacked a citizen reporting on possible OMA violations by him, in which he allegedly held an improper executive session – one in which a councilwoman walked out of because it was improper and later filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The AG’s office concluded that further inquiry was needed on the executive session in question.

This did not sit well with Mayor Renner as he commenced to attack the article’s writer thru commenting on her posts (go here to read the attacks: BLNNEWS.COM), where he went on a tyrade reminiscent of a 2 year old, in which he made all kinds of wild accusation from claiming the writer had a mental disorder to claims of complete transparency. He seems to be the one with the psychological problems that he accuses others of having.

Just to check out his so-called transparency, I looked at the Bloomington Ordinance on public comments during meetings (or view a screen capture of it here), and it violates the Open Meetings Act on so many levels I cannot believe they haven’t been sued over it yet. Here is an exerpt:

If a speaker is afforded an opportunity to speak at a Board or Commission meeting, he or she shall be ineligible to speak again at that meeting for two (2) calendar months, inclusive of the month he or she originally spoke.  (Ordinance No. 2010-56)

What kind of bloomin’ tyrant would support that ? The entire ordinance needs reworked to conform with the intent of Section 2.06 (g) of the OMA in that: Any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body. I also suggest they obtain advice from the AG to determine what “reasonable rules'” are. Only 5 speakers and waiting 2 months to speak again are in no way reasonable.

The bottom line here, Mr. Renner, is that you might need to get off your high horse, follow the law, quit attacking people that report things you don’t like, and maybe seek some psychiatric help.

 BloomingtonMayor2