May 142016
 

It didn’t have to happen, but it happened. The City of Naperville got called out in the form of a class-action lawsuit filed by Larry Drury, a high-powered Chicago attorney who most recently took down Tinley Park in another class-action lawsuit involving faulty water meters.

The lawsuit against the City alleges that Naperville charges and collects refuse fees from persons and entities that is included on their utility bills, however said persons and entities do not contract with the City for their refuse disposal and do not receive curb side service, as they privately contract and pay for their refuse disposal.

In other words, the City of Naperville is charging and collecting money for services they do not provide. Reprehensible, repugnant, disgraceful…absolutely, without a doubt.

Hence the City of Naperville is being sued for:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Common Law Fraud
  • Violation of City of Naperville Municipal Code
  • Unjust Enrichment
  • Statutory Fraud

Serious allegations, yes indeed. Is the case against the City solid? Absolutely.The kicker is that the City had every opportunity to avoid being a pinata in the legal system. But they chose to do nothing to rectify the situation, and in fact, made it worse by trying cover it up. Inexcusable.

The dirty deed is one thing, but where most folks make the big mistake, and dig the hole deeper, is trying to cover it up.

A little background. The Naperville city council increased the charge for trash pick-up by 617%. Watchdog reported this in an article dated 10-18-15. If anything is going to catch the attention of somebody, it’s a 617% increase for a line item on their utility bill. A Watchdog reader checked their utility bill, and sure enough, there was the huge increase. The next day the Watchdog reader left for work in the morning and noticed that the name of the company on the dumpster, was not the name of the company Naperville contracts for trash pick-up. Later that week, the resident called a few apartment and condominium complexes to see who they use for trash removal, and found out they don’t use the City of Naperville’s vendor for the service.

The resident called the city about being charged for a service not received, and was told that nobody else had called to question the charge, so the resident must be wrong. However the charge on the resident’s bill mysteriously disappeared. The resident asked if the City was going to announce this to the public so others could receive a refund, and the answer was that an announcement would be made in ‘Naperville Connected’, a flier that is sent with the utility bill via USPS mail. Not all utility payers receive this communication, because many residents pay on line, hence they would never see the announcement.

A few months passed, and the following appeared in Naperville Connected:

Did you know? Your utility bill is also how the City bills for garbage and recycling services. As the amount charged for these services has recently changed, this is a good time to review your bill’s details and make sure charges accurately reflect services received. If you have any questions about an amount or item on your utility bill, please contact the Finance Department at 630-420-6059

It was at this point that the City of Naperville’s attempted ‘cover up’ was exposed and legal representation for the resident solidified. It is outrageous and dispicable for city officials to think that this paragraph qualifies as a clear announcement that residents had been charged for services not rendered.

The dirty deed of charging residents for a service not rendered could have been considered a mistake under the umbrella of incompetence, but to not clearly announce it to residents and businesses via the city website, or a billboard, or during a council meeting, or in a letter or email, or through the local newspaper (Naperville Sun), or the local government TV channel is shameful by Naperville city officials.

President Nixon was forced to resign, not because of the Watergate break-in, but because of the cover up. Bill Clinton was impeached not because of the affair with Monica Lewinsky, but because of the cover up. Blagoivich is in the slammer because of the cover up. It’s not the deed, it’s the cover up that makes a bad situation toxic.

Nine members on the city council, a city manager, a legal department, a department head, and not one person recognized the problem and had the courage to do the right thing, and make a clear announcement to remedy the injustice. Absolutely shameful.

Is it any wonder why the residents of the Naperville Township are leery about entering into a relationship with Naperville city officials.

Nine members on the Naperville city council who briefly considered and discussed an ordinance to raise trash pick up fees by 617%, voted ‘yes’ to do it, then adjourned to Peanuts in downtown Naperville to pound down a few brews, but not one of them considered the ramifications of what they are voting on. Shameful indeed.

  4 Responses to “City Of Naperville Slapped With Class-Action Lawsuit”

  1. Nice presentation of an avoidable situation. Too bad we don’t know who in the chain of command made the poor decisions that brought them to this point. It doesnt sound like the entire city council was involved.

    One comment on style: stories like this are worth reporting. We citizens need to know. I appreciate what this Watchdog is doing. I suggest that you cut down on the judgemental “shamefuls” a bit. Just tell the story without the scoulding, Mom.

    Hope that’s ok to say.

    Cheers.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, ….and I always enjoy your ‘opinions’, too.
    This was especially interesting to me because it so closely parallels a current situation with my Homeowners Association charging a fee for individual services, like burglar alarm monitoring, that not all homeowners use or want. While the HOA may be a slightly different breed than municipal government, the principles you’ve highlighted are extremely relevant.
    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  3. …have to find another lemon to squeeze I suppose

  4. I agree that a person should not be paying for a service they do not benefit from. But I question the virtue of this lawsuit. The reality is that this issue was discussed in detail at council meetings and in local media. It was part of the larger discussion of how refuse collection was being funded in the past.

    Most residents had been paying around a dollar per month for trash collection even though it was costing the city close to $13/month/resident for the service. This difference was being covered by money from the general fund (sales tax, property tax, other fees & taxes). So in short there were people subsidizing, in part, trash collection through their property taxes even thought they were not receiving this service from the city. It was during the discussion of raising the fee and eliminating this subsidy that it was pointed out some resident may already be getting charged (a dollar on their utility bills) but are getting their refuse collected by private provider and not the city.

    The dollar fee had been on some these bills for decades and no one started receiving a bill for the service after the raise in fee that had not been getting charged before. Most of these resident had likely been getting charged for this service since the day they moved into their townhouse or condo but because the fee was so small they simply paid no attention to it. Their failure to report his discrepancy to the city and get it corrected does not created a “due diligence’ requirement for the city. Failure to pay attention to the details of council discussions or media reports by residents, again, does not create a due diligence requirement for the city. It can be easily argued in court the fact that these residents did not report this billing error to the city actually creates a legal requirement for them to continue paying it, since they have misrepresented themselves and their situation to the city creating a legal hardship for the city.

    It is ironic that one of the biggest complaints about government is its unnecessary intrusion into our lives, (we are, after all, adult and perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves) but the second we are harmed because the government fails to hold our hand we respond by accusing them of incompetence.

    This lawsuit will likely never see a courtroom. It will be settled out of court by the city because, as with most nuisance lawsuits, it is cheaper then the cost of litigation. And the only person who will really win will be Larry Drury Esq. since he will get the lion share of the settlement paid. The residents of Naperville will lose because we will all have to pay for this settlement (including the people filing this lawsuit) through our city fees and taxes.

    Since this situation could have just as easily been resolved (at zero cost to any city residents) by these residents bringing this issue to the attention of the media themselves, rather than insist it was the city responsibility, I strongly question the motives behind this lawsuit. It seem more motivated by politics then any real concern for the welfare of fellow citizens and the betterment of our community.

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