By on May 23, 2011

An executive from American Traffic Solutions, a purveyor of red light cameras, has been suspended after being exposed for posing as an area resident in 43 comments on red light camera-related stories at the Everett Herald. The Herald reported last Friday

Some readers have suggested “W Howard” has been posting comments as part of a marketing campaign run by American Traffic Solutions, Inc. The Scottsdale-based company contracts to provide enforcement camera services in Lynnwood and Seattle. It had inked a similar deal in Mukilteo last year, then [anti-camera activistTim] Eyman pushed for a public vote. Upshot: no cameras in Mukilteo, and a spreading movement around Washington that has growing numbers of people asking questions about enforcement camera technology.

Heraldnet.com requires that people who wish to post comments supply us with a live email address at the time they create their user account. “W Howard” gave an address at American Traffic Solutions. It is one used by Bill Kroske, vice president of business development at ATS. Somebody techie here ran down the internet protocol address that’s being used for “W Howard’s” posts. The electronic trail led straight back to Kroske’s company in Scottsdale.

Kroske pitched Mukilteo on the cameras. He recently was in Bellingham, suggesting a similar arrangement. He’s been the public face of American Traffic Solutions in arranging camera contracts in Washington.

ATS spokesman Charley Territo (whom TTAC readers may remember from his days as spokesman for the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers and TTAC guest editorialist) tells the Spokane Spokesman-Review (where, it turns out, Kroske had left nine pro-camera comments) that his co-worker had expressed his uncontrollable pro-camera passions “the wrong way” by not identifying himself and posing as a local resident. Ya think? [Hit the jump for a full statement from ATS President James Tuton].

Meanwhile, are there any TTAC commenters who have something they need to get off their chests?

ATS President James Tuton tells the Herald

I wanted to take an opportunity to clarify the position of ATS regarding the alleged recent actions of one of our employees. We appreciate this issue being brought to our attention and want to be clear: we do not encourage or condone the kind of behavior your investigation seems to have uncovered. ATS is disappointed and embarrassed by these actions. Such a lack of disclosure violates not only ATS company policy, but also our core values. While we share in the commenter’s passion for red light safety cameras, we also recognize the importance of honest engagement. The employee in question has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation. Furthermore, we are taking steps to make sure all of our employees know that this type of activity is unacceptable.

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21 Comments on “Red Light Camera Exec Busted For Online “Sockpuppeteering”...”


  • avatar
    mazder3

    Just looked up “sock puppeting” on Urban Dictionary. Images from Mapplethorpe flashed in my head. Eww….

  • avatar
    Ratbikerx

    Thanks for picking this story up – it is a hot topic here in Lynnwood and surrounding areas here in western WA. And, yes, I actually live here…..the Herald did a great job uncovering the story as well.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    ATS cameras have gone live just this year in Monroe, Vancouver, and here in my hometown of Redmond (all in WA) as well. I am disgusted that our local politicians are in bed with these scum.

    The City of Redmond flat-out lied to the public about this new program as well, conveniently forgetting to mention in any of their press releases that in addition to catching red light violators, the cameras ALSO monitor right-turn violations (cha-ching cha-ching) which of course is the primary moneymaker. OF COURSE city personnel vehemently maintain that it’s all about safety . . .

    I’m actually taking off early from work tomorrow afternoon so I can attend a city Public Safety Committee meeting where this is the topic of discussion.

    I’m very anti-red-light running, but even more anti-camera. If you don’t have these yet in your community, believe me, you don’t want them. Especially disconcerting is when the camera flash goes off for no reason with no cars even passing through the intersection, which happens fairly often from what I observe.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup it’s all about the revenue, IF they were actually concerned with safety making the yellow a second longer would go a lot further into making intersections safer. The city of Renton is making big bucks with their red light cameras. Every time I go near the intersection of 43rd/180th and E. Valley I almost always see one or more of the tell tale flashes. They must get at least a 100 tickets per day from just that one intersection during rush hour alone. I’m pretty sure the Grady way Rainer Ave/167 intersection does similar good business.

      • 0 avatar

        Renton also has a 20mph speed camera in front of it’s high school.

        Our teenagers are getting such a poor education that we seem to have to worry that they’ll decide to play in speeding traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Ben, Plus that camera is on a street where the lights are timed so you need to maintain about 5MPH over the non-school hours speed limit to not get stopped at every one.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    I confess that I’m envious of the countdown timers that adorn most traffic signals in the People’s Republic of China. No more guessing as to when that light is going to flip yellow and you’re going to have to make a split-second decision if you’re going to punch it or slam on the brakes. When the timer hits zero, the light turns red quickly thereafter. Same thing with waiting at red lights – you know exactly how much time you have to check email, stock quotes, and TTAC before the light turns green. I’ve become incapable of just sitting at a red light, staring out the window and listening to my stereo since the advent of the iPhone.

  • avatar

    The man should be fired for sheer stupidity. If you play the sockpuppet, then we demand more finesse. Signing on with your official email and sending comments under a false name from your office is just plain dumb.

    We get our share of sockpuppets who generally are more intelligent. Otherwise they wouldn’t be on TTAC. They hide behind throwaway Hotmail addresses and post from home. We catch (most of) them nonetheless. Some of them we just keep around for fun. Some we ban.

  • avatar
    findude

    To what extent is this whole thing a symptom of something larger we haven’t properly identified yet? I don’t just mean this sock puppet, but the repeated scenario of local politicians going around the public’s back to implement something that won’t pass a vote. Looking back from a generation or two in the future, historians will likely not see a red-light camera scam so much as a fundamental breakdown in the democratic process that cost our society its faith in the stewardship of not only elected politicians but the judicial and legislative processes as well as the whole system of checks and balances (witness yesterday’s TTAC piece about the judge’s ruling).

    This is way bigger than Mulkiteo.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      The politicians are not going behind the public’s back. They are saying “Screw You!” right to your face.

      Taxes are not ended by law and promise as required. Honorable Senator Scott White D-Seattle, we’re looking at you for your midnight-hour bill to continue the rental car/hotel/restaurant stadium tax bill to pay for art projects.

      Honorable Senators Joe Zarelli and Mike Hewitt, in bed with New York Investment Banker Lindsay Goldberg, rammed through a bill in the dead of night to spend nearly $300,000 on a study already proven to have no chance of a successful finding, despite 11 of 12 testifying in public against it.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Sniff.

    I must admit……

    I am not exactly what I have proclaimed to be.

    I am not exactly an “Old” Coot.

    I AM Disgruntled.

    I DO live in a shanty though that is a subjective term.

    Compared to a lot of USA abodes my shanty IS a shanty but compared to an African Bushperson (note the admirable political correctness in use since I could have written “Bushman”), my shanty would be considered opulent.

    Though I am crawling/sliding/plummeting ever-closer to “Old” I am still at the older end of “middle agedness.”

    “The US Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 50, while prominent social scientist, Erik Erikson, sees it ending a little later and defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_age

    However, if viewed as an attitude I suppose I could proclaim my Old Cootness as having commenced in the 1980s….. around the later 20s or early 30s when my accumulated disgust with what I consider to be a deranged, sick USA society commenced and was strengthened over time.

    But, consider this you human herd; ponder how much time and finger effort has been saved over the years by using “Old” vice “Middle-aged.”

    Three letters versus 10 and a hyphen.”

    The time saved was worth the lie I have lived.

    And consider the pixels!!!!!!!!!

    An innumerable number of pixels have been save for use by others.

    Thus, my “life of lie” has been for a worthy cause.

    And Disgruntled Old Coot I remain and, with luck, it will not be that far into my future when Disgruntled Old Coot is 100 percent factual.

    Is that young gal working at Wal-Mart; perhaps early 20s at most, “coming on” to me merely in pursuit of my pittance of a savings or, perhaps, enamored with the concept of shanty living or perhaps has a mental problem or is seeing a “daddy figure” or has plans to kill me surreptitiously, bury me in the backyard and live in the shanty with her real true lover or……….

    Something else?

    Maybe I will take her on a tour of my picked-out dumpsters for future vittle retrieval when retirement arrives.

    Perhaps her reaction(s) will offer a clue to her intentions.

    Of course, I will have to inquire if she owns a van!!!!!

    If so, that would solve a few future problems.

    ********UPDATE********

    Possibility of more tornadoes today.

    Closet ready to receive cringing Coot.

    Guesstimating the preparations within closet of plywood reinforcement, etc. increases survival odds by a significant amount.

    However, object impalement can not be totally eliminated but efforts will provide much more security than those of the typical dweller of shanties in these environs.

    Cootness Pax

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Well, I guess, better an “Old Coot” than an “old cooter”…

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Obbop: Ha! I knew it! I’m older than you! na-na-na-na-nahhh!

      Please visit thread: “Introducing Toyota’s Tropospheric Ozone-Concentration Simulator. Eat Your Heart Out, Bob Lutz” for commenter concerns and confirmation of status!

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    How come we don’t hear reports of red light cameras being shot by angry recipients? Even a low powered rifle like a Winchester 94 would be good enough to take care of business.

    • 0 avatar
      brettucks

      Here in Phoenix ( Scottsdale is a burb of it but I think we had redflex cameras go figure) the cameras were very unpopular and several were attacked with axes and others smeared with petroleum jelly. An AZDOT camera van was shot which killed the officer. As of recently I think all cameras have been deactivated. The freeway camera have been removed. People would slow down drastically the last 100 ft before the camera zone and then rocket ahead for the next two miles which made traffic dangerous. Good riddance to those stupid things.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Red light cameras were a hot topic of discussion very recently here in Connecticut, where a bill permitting their use by cities of 60,000 population or more was introduced, but defeated in committee. The Hartford Courant ran several articles detailing the lobbying efforts from ATS and other camera providers in support of the cameras.

    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-column-red-light-cameras-0420110423,0,140162.column

    I did what I could and referenced several articles from here on TTAC to help dispel the safety myths about these cameras (my ‘nom de forum’ is “Six Characters”). Looking back at some of the comments attached to the articles I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sock puppetry going on.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The Longview Daily News (Longview, Washington) has a few rabid pro-camera newspaper blog posters that are awfully suspicious. For example: Tom956, husky4life210, BarkTown65, cubuffalo, yogilives, greenhug, greenqueen, ChapsickFTW, mulbs!, Tendered, SafetyGirl, Idhelp, and westender. A few more belong on this list.

    Posting a question if the IP address of these posters was checked out resulted in the question not being posted.

    The Longview Daily News could match the Everett, Washington newspaper but instead runs from it. I have no proof of it but some of the tracing I have done indicates to me one or more of the posters is actually the newspaper itself adding pro-camera comments under the guise of a citizen poster.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Did he explicitly say he was from that town though, or did he only strongly imply he was (like in the quote above).

    Not condoning this at all and definitely not condoning those friggin speed/red light cameras, just saying there’s a bit of a grey area here IMO. Ok, in this case it would seem ‘W. Howard’ is a bit of a douchebag trying to profit from misleading people with false information, but what about a VW car salesman that says something positive about a VW product in a comment(!) on TTAC without disclosing he’s a VW car salesman every time? -no, I’m not-

    I’m all for full disclosure and unbiased (or disclosedly biased) news, but sometimes it can get a little silly: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-24-2011/family-matters

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I follow the Everett Herald and have read all of the associated articles and comments. “W Howard” claimed to be a local resident and also claimed to have been educated at Washington post-secondary institutions. The way that he said it, it was very suspicious and apparently others felt the same.

      Oh, there also is the case of ANOTHER ATS executive who privately-registered http://www.wrongonred.org (so the website couldn’t be traced back to ATS) in response to a Missouri man who set up http://www.wrongonred.com. This same executive came on a Seattle radio talk show last week and admitted that he was the one who set up the website, while claiming that there was nothing wrong with doing so and that the company was being completely out-in-the-open.

      Read about it here: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2011/02/fake_website_cameras_missouri_wrong_on_red.php

  • avatar
    henrythegearhead

    But it doesn’t stop with VP Kroske. He was just one of ATS’ spokesmen. There’s at least one other, and he is potentially much more dangerous. He is Mark Rosenker, former chair of the NTSB. Having retired from the NTSB he now is Senior Advisor to an ATS-supported pro-camera group. Taking advantage of the status conferred by the association with the NTSB, Rosenker has been granted numerous pro-camera “guest columns” in newspapers around the country. In all of the columns he mentioned his current position as Senior Advisor to the National Coalition for Safer Roads but never disclosed that the NCSR is supported by ATS. Nor did he or his newspaper hosts mention that early in his career Rosenker did electronic monitoring for Pres. Nixon.

    And it doesn’t stop with Rosenker. Bancams dot com has shown that ATS is behind many of the “citizen supported” pro-camera websites you’ll find in towns where the company is entrenched. To find the bancams article, put “stupid” in their search box.


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