Naperville electoral board slapped for open meeting violations
The Illinois attorney general's office has found Naperville's electoral board violated the state's Open Meeting Act three times during January's deliberations regarding a proposed advisory referendum question for the March 20 primary election ballot.
The attorney general's office said it will not seek "remedial actions" against the electoral board because the primary election was held more than four months ago. But the office did warn the board against committing future violations.
Mayor George Pradel, Councilman Doug Krause and City Clerk Pam LaFever served on the three-member electoral board.
The board held a weeklong hearing in early January during which the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group attempted to defend several hundred signatures necessary for the referendum question to have been placed on the ballot.
The group hoped to ask voters whether the city should stop installation of the wireless smart meters and dismantle the equipment already installed. But after witness testimony and a review of registered voter records, the electoral board ruled the group was 124 signatures shy of the required number.
The DuPage County Circuit Court upheld the decision and the Illinois Appellate Court declined to hear the case.
Tom Glass, secretary of the awareness group, accused the electoral board of violating the state Open Meetings Act several times during the hearing and ultimately requested the attorney general's review.
"It is my opinion that ... the electoral board has deprived the residents of Naperville of their civil rights to petition our government, and to have an opportunity to vote on this very important issue through violations of the Open Meetings Act," Glass wrote. "It is also my opinion that apparent illegal actions taken by individuals in their official capacity deprived the voters of Naperville an opportunity to weigh in on this issue by using taxpayer resources to prevent ballot access in violation of (state law)."
Assistant Attorney General Steve Silverman, in his July 23 written review, said the electoral board did not openly deliberate its final decision during its Jan. 12 meeting, refused to allow public comment and did not include agenda items on its public meeting notices.
"Based on our review of the materials submitted by the parties, the board merely announced its final decision at the Jan. 12, 2012, meeting without openly deliberating," Silverman wrote. "Most notably, the board has acknowledged that each of the board members individually signed the final decision before the meeting commenced."
Doug Ibendahl, attorney for the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group, said the findings "confirm everything we said all along."
"But for multiple violations of state laws, the referendum question would have been on the ballot," Ibendahl said. "Absolutely. End of story."
City Attorney Margo Ely, who advised the electoral board, and City Manager Doug Krieger could not be reached for comment Monday.
Ibendahl also confirmed the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group is still pursuing a federal lawsuit against the city which is next scheduled to be heard on Aug. 16.
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.