Naperville Electoral Board decision on March referendum stands
In January, the Naperville Electoral Board ruled that 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 City’s decision was upheld by the DuPage County Circuit Court and Illinois Appellate Court.
Following the January 12 Electoral Board decision, the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group accused the City of violating the Open Meetings Act and requested a review by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. In a written opinion dated July 23, Steve Silverman, Assistant Attorney General with the office’s Public Access Bureau, rejected accusations that the City held private meetings behind closed doors.
Mr. Silverman’s advisory opinion did express his belief though that the City committed three technical violations by (1) not allowing the public to comment at the January 12 hearing; (2) issuing a meeting “notice” document rather than an “agenda” document; and (3) not openly deliberating the decision. The City of Naperville is not required to take any action and faces no penalties as a result of this opinion. Furthermore, the opinion in no way draws into question the decision made by the Naperville Electoral Board regarding the referendum petition.
The City of Naperville appreciates the Attorney General’s guidance and is committed to providing accurate and timely communications in accordance with statutory requirements. The City acknowledges that there was a technical violation of the Act by not releasing a document entitled “Agenda;” however, the public was fully informed at all times of hearing dates, places, and times and the purpose of the hearing via numerous press releases, newspaper articles, website updates and postings at the Municipal Center.
The City respectfully disagrees with the opinion that it was obligated to give the public an opportunity to address Electoral Board. City Attorney Margo Ely notes that that the Electoral Board was acting in a “quasi-judicial” capacity, similar to a courtroom proceeding, and the law for these types of meetings does not require general public comment.
During the January 12 hearing, Electoral Board members decided to read from their own individually prepared statements to clearly and concisely recite their reasons in offering their vote. However, the board members were free to change their vote and deviate from their prepared deliberation comments at any time. The Attorney General’s opinion confirmed that the City did not hold private meetings nor deliberate behind closed doors.
Since January, the City of Naperville has installed more than 42,000 smart meters out of about 57,000 and is on schedule to complete system installation by October. City officials say the meters will make the electric system more reliable, efficient and reduce costs.
DAILY HERALD STORY: July 31, 2012