Naperville City Council members

Naperville Councilman Doug Krause, Mayor George Pradel, City Attorney Margo Ely and City Clerk Pam LaFeber discuss a proposed referendum that would have asked taxpayers whether the city should stop implementation of electric smart meters and dismantle the equipment. (Melissa Jenco / July 30, 2012)

Naperville’s electoral board violated the state law concerning open meetings while conducting hearings on a proposed smart meter referendum, according to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

However, the city will not face penalties for the infractions found in the state’s review, which was requested by smart meter opponent Tom Glass.

The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group appeared before the city’s electoral board in January to prove it had enough valid petition signatures to put a referendum on the March 20 ballot asking if the city should stop implementation of electric smart meters and dismantle the equipment. It has cited concerns over health, security and privacy related to the meters.

However, the electoral board ultimately ruled against the smart meter group saying it fell 124 signatures short. The group’s subsequent appeals to the DuPage County Circuit Court and Illinois Appellate Court were unsuccessful and the measure did not appear on the ballot.

Glass accused the city of violating the state Open Meetings Act during the electoral board proceedings and requested a review by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

In a written review dated July 23, Steve Silverman, assistant attorney general with the office’s Public Access Bureau, says the city committed three violations. It did not openly deliberate its final decision during its Jan. 12 meeting, did not allow public comment at that meeting and did not include agenda items on its public meeting notices, he found.

“Rather than deliberating during the meeting, Board members simply recited the reasoning behind a decision that had already been finalized in written form,” he wrote.

However, Silverman did reject one of Glass’ allegations that the electoral board held a private meeting before handing down its ruling.

Doug Ibendahl, attorney for the smart meter opponents, called Silverman’s finding of three violations “the right decision.”

City Attorney Margo Ely called the lack of agenda items on the meeting notices a “technical error” and said the city accepts responsibility. She noted that there were numerous press releases, newspaper articles and discussion during the hearings that indicated what would be taking place.

As for the lack of public comments and board deliberations at the Jan. 12 hearing, Ely said she disagrees with Silverman’s assessment. She called the hearings “quasi-judicial” and said in such proceedings there isn’t public comment. She also said there was opportunity for board members to change their votes during the final hearing.

Silverman’s review is not considered binding and the city will not be penalized for its actions.

The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group still has a federal lawsuit pending against the city concerning the installation of the meters. In the meantime, the city has installed more than 40,000 meters out of about 57,000 and plans to complete installation by October.

City officials say the meters will make the electric system more reliable and efficient and reduce costs.

mjenco@tribune.com