Jennifer Stahl was arrested in January when she was refusing utility workers access to install a smart meter on her home. (Image: CBS video screenshot)
When we first reported on the controversial smart meter initiative taking place in Naperville, Ill., it was to tell the story of one of two women arrested for trying to prevent a new wireless meter from replacing an analog meter on her home. On Tuesday, the city had a council meeting where many against the meters and, more overarching, against the arrest and charges of the women aired their concerns.
In a phone interview with TheBlaze Thursday one of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness leaders, Tom Glass, said it isn't even really about smart meters anymore.
"This has little to do with smart meters now," Glass said. "This is about an overbearing government."
Video footage of the meeting shows Glass addressing the city council, saying that the women -- Jennifer Stahl and Malia “Kim” Bendis who were arrested Jan. 23 -- were not only within their rights to film public employees conducting official duties but that their property rights were violated according to the city's own code.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Stahl was charged with misdemeanors for "interfering with police and preventing access to customer’s premises" and Bendis, who is the president of the awareness group, was charged with "attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer."
In the city council video and over the phone to TheBlaze, Glass explained that according to the city's code, public workers who have been refused access a homeowner's land need to obtain a warrant. According to city ordinance 06-278, 11-21-2006 in Article C Electric Service Rates, when inspections on private property are necessary, permission from the property owner will first be sought.
"If permission is refused, or if the owner or occupant is unavailable, the Director or his or her designee, with the assistance of the City Attorney, shall apply to the appropriate court for the issuance of an administrative search warrant," the ordinance continued.
Here you can see the difference between a smart meter and a traditional analog meter in California. Smart meters have drawn criticism from around the country for privacy and health concerns. (Photo: AP/Gosia Wozniacka)
It should be noted that ordinance 07-013, 1-16-2007 in the same Article C states that authorized agents "shall have free access to the customer's premises at all reasonable hours for the purpose of reading, examining, inspecting, repairing, replacing, or removing the Department's meters or other equipment or property."
To Glass, the fact that these women -- and others who had meters installed when they were not home -- expressly refused access to their yards -- the gates of some residences were cut open to give city workers access -- would constitute the need for a warrant for these employees to enter the premises.
"If you think this is OK, are you going to be OK when Mark Curren [(the Lake County Sherriff)] comes through your front door with a chainsaw to test out your new TV and microwave in the middle of the night? Where do you draw the line," Glass asked in his speech to the council, noting the portion of the code he believes would require a warrant when permission is denied. "Here's your code -- you ignored it."
Watch Glass' speech:
As for Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which made it a felony to record conversations or actions of people without their consent, that Bendis was cited for as she filmed workers on her property, Glass pointed to several court cases within 2012 that deemed the act unconstitutional. In July 2012, a judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled the law was unconstitutional, and in November the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that blocked enforcement of the law, Reuters reported.
Glass also called out inconsistencies of the council down to its not allowing residents to clap in support of what was being said Tuesday night. The Chicago Tribune reported that for 40 minutes residents issued complaints. One of them was Jerry Schilling who called for the firing of the city manager and said "as far as I know, we still live in the United States of America and not communist China," drawing cheers and clapping from the crowd during and after his speech. Due to this display Mayor George Pradel called for a five minute recess.
Watch Schilling's speech and Pradel's call for a brief break:
In the video showing Glass' speech, he brings up the issue of clapping and how it was allowed during other instances, which drew further applause as he left the podium. Mayor Pradel again said the meeting would "hold up for a few minutes until we quiet down."
But during his interview with TheBlaze, Glass pointed to another video showing where clapping was completely welcome in a city council meeting.
"It's hysterical to see the difference when it's something popular," Glass said. "When it's something they want, it's a different set of rules."
Watch Mayor Pradel draw laughs and applause himself, which doesn't go unchecked, in this video:
The fight against smart meters is over in a way, Glass said -- "the meters are installed." But they've opened up what he believes is an even larger issue regarding the "bigger grasp of government and the loss of privacy in our personal homes."
As for what is being done going forward by those part of awareness group, Glass said there are some legal things in the works that he is not at liberty to discuss, but also noted that the experience he and others have had with the local government has prompted himself and Jo Malik to run for city council in April.
Glass said the group also hopes the state attorney will take action and investigate what some residents believe to be unlawful acts taken by the city.