It would be difficult to argue against the idea that anybody can sue anybody for anything. My neighbor could sue me for driving a 1990 Volvo because it was made in Sweden, and the blue and yellow Swedish flag makes him dizzy. Connecting dots to the absurd is the basis for many lawsuits. However in other lawsuits, connecting the dots is simple and obvious. The City of Naperville seems to be a magnet for those types of lawsuits.
Last Monday, November 30, a lawsuit was filed, by Miami, Florida based Atlas IP, in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, against the City of Naperville and its Department of Public Utility, alleging Smart Meter patent infringement. That’s one of those ‘easy-to-connect the dots’ lawsuits. Oops on the part of Naperville city officials; somebody dropped the ball of due diligence.
It seems to happen a lot. Lack of attention to detail, along with unintended consequences for decisions that are not always thoroughly thought out by Naperville decision makers. This is about the time, that all those who could have and should have caught the error, run for cover. In the past, demonstrating accountability, and managing execution have not been strengths of city officials.
In this case, the City has very limited financial exposure, because it is indemnified by the supplier and their insurance company. We live in a litigious society, so again law suits are not uncommon. However that doesn’t negate due diligence on the part of city officials. Most professionals have insurance, but that doesn’t mean they can practice recklessly.
In fairness to the current city council, six of the eight members were not in office when the oversight occurred, and the mayor is new in position. So who should be held accountable; who wasn’t paying attention. The list isn’t that long. It includes the following possible culprits:
- City manager Doug Krieger who orchestrates and oversees all the actions of department heads and city staff. He’s like the manager of a baseball team. It’s his job to make sure things get done, efficiently and properly. Krieger pushed hard for the quick installation of Smart Meters. So quick in fact, that he was willing to have home owners arrested, if they protested the forced installation of those meters on their homes. That action in itself, resulted in a lawsuit by a home owner against the City, and the home owner won in court, costing the City (residents) a six-figure settlement.
- Director of Public Utility-Electric, Mark Curran. He’s in charge of Naperville’s electric utility and was ‘expert’ on Smart Meter usage and technology. He was also hell-bent on making sure those meters were quickly installed. Speed over due diligence is not a wise idea.
- The legal department which has the responsibility of making sure the ‘i”s are dotted and the ‘t’s’ are crossed. It’s their job to make sure the City of doing everything legally. The city attorney who was in charge at the time of the Smart Meter fiasco is no longer employed by the City.
- Holdover city council members Judith Brodhead and Paul Hinterlong who put their names on the line with a ‘yes’ vote for Smart Meter technology. Apparently neither questioned whether or not what they were voting for was 100% legal.
- The previous city council, which had a patent attorney at the dais. And now the City is being sued for patent infringement. How ironic.
- Current Naperville city council member John Krummen, an engineer by vocation and self-proclaimed advocate for attention to detail, was a Smart Meter ‘ambassador’ (bugle boy and flag carrier) for Smart Meter technology.
- City staff, somebody must have been assigned the duty of making sure all the ducks were in a row, with regard to Smart Meter hardware and software.
When all the dust settles with this lawsuit, nobody will be held accountable, the City will be liable for financial ‘royalties’ to the Florida based company, and city officials will build this expense into the next electric rate increase. End result, Naperville residents and businesses lose again.