Society

Illinois Woman Opposed To 'Smart' Electric Meters Files Federal Suit Against City Of Naperville

| by Jared Keever
article imagearticle image

An Illinois woman, opposed to the installation of so-called smart meters, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Naperville alleging that her civil rights were violated when she was arrested for filming city police officers and utility crews installing the electric meters on homes two years ago. 

The Chicago Tribune reports Malia “Kim” Bendis, 42, filed her complaint with U.S. District Court Jan. 23, exactly two years after she was arrested. 

Bendis is the founder of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, a grass-roots organization opposed to the installation of the meters that allow the electric company to collect usage information wirelessly for billing purposes.

Opponents of the smart meters say there are health concerns associated with exposure to the wireless signals put out by the meters, including tinnitus, headaches, heart arrhythmia and sleeplessness. Many also cite privacy concerns, arguing that electric companies could possibly sell customer information about an individual’s daily energy usage to outside parties. That’s a violation of privacy, according to the website Stopsmartmeters.org

Bendis formed her local group after Naperville officials announced plans to replace traditional analog meters on homes in the city with the new devices. Bendis and one of her fellow organizers, Jennifer Stahl, were arrested in January 2013 as officers and utility crews entered Stahl’s backyard to install a smart meter. Stahl and Bendis were attempting to record video of the installation. 

They were arrested under an Illinois anti-eavesdropping law. Those charges were later dropped as the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, according to the Daily Herald, a Chicago-area paper. 

Bendis also faced a charge of resisting a peace officer for which she was acquitted in October. 

Bendis’ federal suit alleges four city police officers, Nick Liberio, Tammy Spencer-Hale, Wojtek Kowal and Juan Rios, violated her civil rights by arresting her during the incident. 

Her attorney, Torreya Hamilton, said the suit isn’t about money for her client and that she is not “seeking millions” in damages. 

“Kim just wants to tell her story to a jury of her peers and hopes that the officers will suffer some consequences,” Hamilton said. “My client had to retain a criminal defense attorney to represent her. That's an injury by legal definition and the law allows you to recover money for representation, anxiety and humiliation caused.”

City spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said she could not comment on the lawsuit because the city had not yet been served and had not had a chance to review the suit. Police Chief Robert Marshall also declined to comment. 

Hamilton said she hoped the city would settle out of court so everyone involved could move on with their lives. 

“Hopefully the city decides to resolve this quickly,” she said. “Let's see how they respond.”

The city has installed more than 57,000 smart meters on homes since deciding to switch from the old devices. 

Sources: Chicago TribuneStopsmartmeters.orgDaily Herald

Photo Credit: Daily Herald courtesy of Naperville Police Department, deepsource.files.wordpress.com