Naperville smart meter opponent gets $117,500 settlement from city

A lawsuit stemming from the arrest of a Naperville woman who filmed a utility crew installing a wireless electric meter more than two years ago has been settled.

Malia "Kim" Bendis will receive a one-time payment of $117,500 in the settlement approved Tuesday by the city council.

"No municipality wants lawsuits from its residents," Mayor Steve Chirico said. "We're happy it's settled."

Bendis is an opponent of the electric monitoring devices known as "smart meters" that the city installed at 58,000 homes and businesses in 2012 and 2013.

When a utility crew arrived - escorted by police - at the home of Jennifer Stahl to install a smart meter on Jan. 23, 2013, Bendis used her cellphone to film the work. A police sergeant ordered her arrest.

Bendis said Wednesday she was exercising her right to express a contrary view about smart meters and she thinks the city should have done a better job of allowing her to do so in a safe environment.

"I'm relieved that this unjust situation is over and that we can move forward. I really hope no one else will be treated this way," Bendis said. "We should all be able to have a different opinion and be able to express it without fearing that this type of action will be taken against us."

The sergeant who ordered Bendis' arrest, two detectives and an officer were named in the lawsuit Bendis filed on Jan. 23 of this year. By then, Bendis had been acquitted of the charge on which she was arrested: resisting or obstructing a peace officer.

"She was basically arrested for exactly what I think all of us would believe to be our constitutional right: to protest something she was an active protester about - the smart meters - and then to oversee our government," Bendis' lawyer, civil rights attorney Torri Hamilton of Hamilton Law Office in Chicago, said. "What happened to her was completely uncalled for."

Hamilton said the "sizable" settlement means Bendis can move forward.

"Kim is just happy that this is all going to be behind her now and she can go on with her life," Hamilton said. "It's a good settlement for Kim and her family."

Bendis said she hopes her three children learn from her example that it's important to stand up for themselves. But this lengthy legal process was never something she imagined becoming involved in.

"I'm disappointed that our family had to go through all of this," Bendis said.

The nine-page settlement says it is not to be construed as an admission that the police personnel named in the suit "acted wrongfully" toward Bendis.

Sgt. Nick Liberio, Detective Tammy Spencer, Detective Wojtek Kowal and officer Juan Rios originally were named in the suit. Bendis dismissed her claim against Rios before the matter was settled, according to the agreement.

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