Judge AGAIN sides with alarm industry in Illinois

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08/25/2011

I’ve written recently about the battle in Illinois over public entities taking control over fire alarm monitoring. A federal court judge’s ruling this week again supports the industry’s side in this battle—for the second time this summer.

A federal judge in July issued a partial summary judgment and a permanent injunction against the Lisle-Woodridge fire district, which had invalidated contracts that ADT and other companies had with their customers and put itself solely in charge of commercial fire alarm monitoring in that Illinois fire district. ADT and the other companies have sued the district and the case is making its way through the courts.

The judge in his July 20 ruling slapped down the fire district, saying state law does not give public fire districts any legal right to be in the fire alarm monitoring business.

But the fire district, which maintains it needs to take control of fire alarm monitoring for safety reasons, then asked the judge to stay the injunction, which essentially reinstated the alarm companies’ right to resume fire alarm monitoring in the district. However, the judge denied that motion this week and gave the fire district a blistering scolding.

“This case involves an act of illegal self-aggrandizement by a fire protection district,” Judge Milton Shadur wrote in his Aug. 23 decision. He also said the district had violated “fundamental principles” by “trampling on the rights of companies going about their legitimate business of providing alarm security services.”

Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA), which has been fighting the attempt by public entities to monopolize the fire alarm monitoring business in the state, hailed Judge Shadur’s decision in an email this week.

Lehan described as “most interesting” another of the judge’s statements. The judge said: “And District's
 claimed bugaboo of endangering the health and safety of the alarm monitoring systems customers glossed over—or more accurately ignores entirely—the record's silence as to any such risks during the years that the independent alarm companies have been providing their services to customers within the fire protection district.”



Or, as Lehan put it, “In other words, the ‘public safety argument’ that some try to use to promote their ‘self-aggrandizing’ agenda just does not hold water.”