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updated: 10/5/2011 8:28 PM

Cops escort two women out of Naperville council meeting

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  • The debate over the smart grid in Naperville got so heated that officials had to call police to escort residents from the meeting.

      The debate over the smart grid in Naperville got so heated that officials had to call police to escort residents from the meeting.
    Associated Press

  • George Pradel

      George Pradel

  • Steve Chirico

      Steve Chirico

 
 

Lightning struck not once but twice in the Naperville City Council chambers.

For the first time officials can remember, police were asked to escort a resident from a city council meeting. And then, just a few minutes later, they did it again.

Mayor pro tem Steve Chirico, sitting in for Mayor George Pradel who was at a conference in Lake Geneva, issued several warnings Tuesday night to guests about clapping and jeering during a sometimes-heated discussion of Smart Meter alternatives.

The city says installation of the meters at homes and businesses throughout the city will help conserve electricity and ultimately save everyone money.

Opponents of the plan say they have concerns about privacy and health that the city has not adequately addressed.

Despite the pleas of roughly 20 residents, council members moved forward with the latest phase of the $22 million Smart Gride Initiative, approving a non-wireless option for those concerned with safety and privacy of the wireless meters.

During the discussion, opponents interrupted the meeting several times and Chirico called for a 10-minute break to allow everyone to "cool down."

"We're going to take a 10-minute recess to give you all a minute to think about if you want to be in this meeting or out of this meeting because we're not going to tolerate it any longer," he warned.

During that time, he also summoned as many as five Naperville police officers to the council chambers.

"I've warned you three times and we really don't want to go through the process of escorting people out, but that is what we've ordered the police to do," Chirico said as he returned to the dais after the break. "Let's act like adults and have discussions where people cooperate."

Within minutes, a woman shouted from the audience and was escorted from the room by police. A short time later a second woman was escorted out for the same reason. Both left peacefully.

"The rules are pretty clear in the chambers and no cheering or heckling is allowed. We want people to feel safe to say what's on their mind without being intimidated or disrespected," Chirico said following the meeting. "The last thing I wanted to do, heading into this meeting, was to have people removed, but I had the responsibility to run the meeting the way it's supposed to be run."

Police Sgt. Gregg Bell said both women, who authorities did not name, went quietly. He said police believe this is the first time they've been asked to remove people from the council chambers.

Pradel, reached Wednesday morning on his cellphone, was unaware of the incident.

"That's crazy. Good for him (Chirico). I've never had that happen in my 15-plus years," Pradel said. "I've had situations where I've watched people because I knew they were capable of an outburst and if anything started brewing an officer would go tell them to cool it, but that would be the end of it."

Pradel is expected to be back to oversee the next council meeting on Oct. 18.

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