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Online Comments Continue To Trip Up Bloomington's Renner

A photo shared on Tari Renner's Facebook page on Aug. 1.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner conceded Tuesday that his latest online run-ins with conservative critics aren’t helping him politically, even as he defended his threat to sue a local blogger and an aggressive late-night email to another opponent.

Renner, just a few months into his second term, has faced criticism online over his recent trip to Japan for a Sister Cities anniversary event. His partner, music 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, which Renner says is allowed by law.

Renner was attacked on the blog BLNNews.com over the airfare, accusing him of official misconduct. Renner commented on that blog post July 31, attacking its editor, Diane Benjamin.

Tari Renner's comment on a blog post July 31, 2017.

“Diane I avoid your site because it’s always loaded with lies but the latest needs a retraction and apology or you will be sued,” Renner wrote. “Margot is not a public figure like me who you can just lie about all day long the threshold for slander is much lower. Margot paid for her own way! You again show contempt for human decency!”

On a Facebook post Aug. 1 on his own page, Renner shared a photo of himself with Ehrlich and Koos while in Japan.

“I am also grateful Margot was willing to pay her own way and join me,” Renner wrote, an apparent nod to the airfare blog post.

In a related incident, Renner replied to an email from a frequent critic, Bruce Meeks, about the Japan trip, calling him “very sad and pathetic” and as “crazy as they come.” That email was sent by Renner to Meeks at 2:45 a.m. Sunday. Meeks addressed the Bloomington City Council about the matter at its Monday meeting.

It’s not Renner’s first problems with his online behavior. The Bloomington City Council admonished him in 2015 for comments made on the same conservative blog run by Benjamin. In that episode, Renner argued he was defending his son.

During an interview on GLT’s Sound Ideas on Tuesday, Renner admitted that his online writings were not helping him politically.

“Well, 99.9999 percent of the time I don’t bother to respond. When it involves somebody that you care about, it’s a little harder, especially when it’s been time after time after time,” Renner said.

Renner said he’s “gutted like a fish every day” by his critics. He said critics of his administration are costing the city big money through Freedom of Information Act requests and other issues.

“We have a very small group of very noisy people who are really against everything since the invention of the wheel,” Renner told GLT. “This is just part of our city government, where a really small group of people are occupying a large portion of our staff and legal time trying to throw bombs at just about anything.”

He added: “These people aren’t conservative Republicans. (They’re) fanatics.”

You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Renner:

GLT's full interview with Mayor Tari Renner.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.