Naperville acknowledges open meetings violation but disputes other findings

Naperville officials Tuesday acknowledged the city’s electoral board technically violated the Open Meetings Act in January but said they “respectfully disagree” with other aspects of a report filed by the Illinois attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s July 23 report found the electoral board violated the state’s Open Meetings Act three times during January’s deliberations regarding a proposed advisory referendum question for the March 20 primary election ballot.

City Manager Doug Krieger said Tuesday the city appreciates any “authoritative guidance” offered by the attorney general’s office, even if it doesn’t wholly agree with the findings.

In January, the three-member electoral board ruled a referendum petition by the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group was 124 signatures short of the statutory requirements to appear on the March 20 ballet. The decision was upheld by the DuPage County Circuit Court and the Illinois Appellate Court declined to hear the case.

Following the board’s decision, the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group accused the group of violating the Open Meetings Act and requested a review by the attorney general’s office.

The board consists of Mayor George Pradel, Councilman Doug Krause and City Clerk Pam LaFever.

In the written opinion, Assistant Attorney General Steve Silverman rejected accusations the city held meetings behind closed doors.

He did, however, find the city committed three technical violations by not allowing the public to comment at the Jan. 12 hearing; issuing a meeting “notice” document rather than an “agenda” document; and not openly deliberating the decision.

The city is not required to take any action and faces no penalties as a result of the findings.

“The opinion does not call into question the decision of the board, so there are no issues there,” Krieger said. “We don’t fully agree with the opinion but we have learned that we make our process better in the future, should this scenario arise again.”

Krieger said the city acknowledges there was a technical violation of the Open Meetings Act by not releasing an agenda but said the public was made aware of the proceedings via “numerous news releases, newspaper articles, website updates and postings at the Municipal Center.”

Officials “respectfully disagree” that the board was obligated to give the public an opportunity to address the electoral board. City Attorney Margo Ely said the board was acting in a “quasi-judicial” capacity, similar to a courtroom proceeding, and the law for such meetings does not require general public comment.

As for the board not deliberating publicly, Krieger said board members “simply decided to read from their own individually prepared statements to clearly and concisely recite their reasons in offering their vote.”

Doug Ibendahl, attorney for the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group, said Monday the attorney general’s findings “confirm everything we said all along.”

The city has installed more than 42,000 of the 59,000 meters scheduled to be in place by October.

The installation of wireless smart meters is part of a $22 million Smart Grid Initiative in Naperville. Officials say the project is a safe upgrade to the city’s $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers.

Opponents, however, have raised questions about the meters concerning health, security and privacy concerns.

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