Naperville Smart Grid opponent claims e-mail shows improprieties
By Hank Beckman For The Sun January 23, 2012 5:52PM
Updated: January 24, 2012 10:36PM
Attorney Doug Ibendahl has long contended that the city of Naperville has been unfair to his client, and now he thinks he’s got the smoking gun to prove it.
Ibendahl said he plans to file Tuesday for an expedited review of the Naperville Electoral Commission’s decision to uphold an objection to a petition for a referendum question asking Naperville residents if they want the city’s Smart Grid Initiative halted. He says he has evidence of improper contact between city employees and at least one member of the commission.
“This would make a Chicago politician blush,” he said Monday.
Citing concerns of safety, privacy and security, Ibendahl’s clients, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness, have opposed the $22 million project to put 57,000 smart meters in Naperville homes and businesses. The group filed a petition in November to put the non-binding question on the March primary ballot.
Naperville resident Bill Dawe filed an objection to the petition and the electoral board ruled in his favor Jan. 12, effectively knocking the question off the ballot.
The communication Ibendahl is raising, obtained in a Freedom of Information request, is a Nov. 15 e-mail from community relations manager Nadja Lalvani to various supporters of the initiative suggesting an objection to the petition.
“Perhaps the ambassadors would be interested in verifying/challenging the petition signatures,” read the e-mail.
It goes on to say that, in cases of political candidates, one invalid signature could spoil an entire page full of signatures, but Lalvani wasn’t clear about the rules for other types of petitions.
City Attorney Margo Ely and City Clerk Pam LaFeber were recipients of the e-mail.
Ibendahl maintains that, even if the e-mail drew no response, LaFeber, who serves as a voting member of the commission that ultimately sustained Dawe’s objection, should have disclosed it.
“It’s highly inappropriate,” Ibendahl said. “It’s very strong documented evidence that this electoral board was not impartial.”
Ely discounted the notion that anything improper occurred.
“There is no issue here,” she said Monday. “I don’t think it shows any sort of bias.”
Ely pointed out that neither she nor LaFeber made any response to the e-mail and that it only revealed a discussion between other people.
Ely also stressed that the e-mail was sent well before the electoral board in this particular case was even created.
As for LaFeber, Ely said that she would “only be disqualified if they (LaFeber) were the subject of the objection.”
Moreover, Ibendahl’s clients were still short valid signatures.
“The only question is whether they had enough signatures or not,” Ely said.
LaFeber was unavailable for comment late Monday.
Ibendahl filed a motion Monday afternoon for the information to be added to the motion for expedited review of the electoral board’s decision.
The hearing begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Bonnie Wheaton in Room 2007 of the DuPage County Court House in Wheaton.