By on September 10, 2011

The distinction between employees for a private photo enforcement firm and taxpayer-funded public servants blurred in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. Emails between city officials and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) suggest a cozy relationship developed where both sides were willing to perform the duties of the other in terms of marketing and public relations.

Lynnwood Police Sergeant Wayne “Kawika” Davis, for example, used official government resources and time to come up with a marketing plan to sell for the privately held firm at a conference held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in June.

“Ray, I really believe this is a great venue for ATS exposure,” Davis wrote in a May 19 email to ATS project manager Ray Pedrosa. “I have some ideas that really could market ATS in WA, ID, OR and Canada. I know you are already in some of these areas; however, there is a lot more business to be had. Is there someone in marketing that you might
turn me on to?”

ATS was equally generous in inviting municipal employees from across the country to attend a complimentary seminar in Arizona discussing “tips and tricks for speaking with the media” regarding red light cameras and “when to panic, when to relax” regarding efforts in the state legislature to restrict automated ticketing. Airfare, lodging and wages during such events is considered official business and paid by taxpayers. ATS picked up the rest of the tab, for which municipal employees expressed gratitude.

“I had another wonderful time in AZ,” Sergeant Davis wrote in a May 9 email to ATS spokesman Kate Coulson. “ATS is the greatest host, and put on a great conference. I really get irritated at the media, and I find it hard to keep my mouth shut, so I don’t.”

Davis and other Lynnwood officials were concerned as the Everett Daily Herald newspaper widened its investigation into the operations of the automated ticketing program. ATS offered to write responses for the city.

“Our public relations department has great information on the safety aspects of the cameras and they are available to you to create an opinion editorial so the Herald can cover the safety message in next month’s article,” Claudia Garibay with ATS wrote in an April 26 email. “Would you like for the public relations manager Kate Coulson to get in touch with you and discuss ideas and information to provide the Herald?”

Coulson ensured whenever Davis conducted interviews with reporters that he used ATS-approved talking points and materials. It did not help, as Davis did not think the Herald’s May 2 online article was fair. Reporter Scott North had described city officials as “a bit prickly” when responding to questions about the photo enforcement program that had generated $4.7 million in less than a year and a half, which did not sit well with Davis.

“I will need to wait some time before I call Scott North about this,” Sergeant Davis wrote in an email after reading the article. “Because if I call him now, it won’t go well!”

A set of ATS emails is provided in a 1.6mb PDF file at the source link below. Pictured: ATS entertainment as provided after conference in photo taken by Davis.

Source: PDF File ATS emails (City of Lynnwood, Washington, 9/9/2011)

[Courtesy: thenewspaper.com]

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4 Comments on “Washington: Traffic Camera Company Runs Press Relations for Lynnwood...”


  • avatar
    CarPerson

    You might want to keep an old map showing Lynnwood, Wa.

    The yellows, greens, and failure to use an “all-red” traffic signal plan are all in clear violation of their own city code and the FHWA MUTCD. This will result in the city being liable for every signalized intersection crash back to the statute of limitations, a fact trial lawyers will capitalize on.

    After being sued into bankruptcy and dissolution, Lynnwood will be absorbed into neighboring city Mountlake Terrace. No Lynnwood city official will be jailed, fined, or otherwise inconvenienced.

  • avatar
    jjf

    I live in the area, and avoid Lynnwood like the plague. Their photo ticketing is notoriously aggressive, and I have never been anywhere else with more cameras.

    Lynnwood is home to a large shopping mall and a convention center, around which the red light cameras are strategically placed. I’m surprised the local chamber of commerce is ok with this, since mall and convention center must be taking a hit. It would be intersting to see data on sales tax revenue before and after the camereras are installed.

    I read the attached e-mail chain and nauseated by how much time these “public” officials spend manipulating public opinion. They are obviously very defensive, and at some point the public will take a hard looks at what they are doing.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    This is going on in several cities in Washington.

    By in large the public in my City is not paying attention at the moment.

    Lot’s of very similar letters to the local free newspaper supporting the cameras.

    There is almost no pedestrian traffic at these intersections.

    95% of the revenue is from “California stops” and there has been an increase in accidents at all intersections with cameras.

    But let’s think of the children

  • avatar
    henrythegearhead

    For a long time, ATS hid behind its local lobbyists and we could not see into ATS. Now that we can, it is not good.

    Kroske: In May, ATS suspended a VP caught posing as a resident of towns where he’d been posting online comments. Source: heraldnet.com, put Kroske in search box.

    Lenza: ATS recently fired & sued another VP, Michael Lenza for (allegedly) “diverting opportunities away from ATS.”

    Rosenker: Senior Advisor to ATS’ main front group the Natl. Coalition for Safer Roads is Mark Rosenker who in his early career did electronic monitoring for the Campaign to Re-Elect Pres. Nixon. CRP did the Watergate break-in, after which many of the conspirators went to prison, and Nixon resigned. Because of his recent former position as NTSB chair Rosenker was granted pro-camera guest columns in papers nationwide, in which he mentioned his position with the Natl. Coalition for Safer Roads but not its support by ATS.

    Tuton, and Buffett: James Tuton is the nominal CEO at ATS. But who’s hidden behind him? In Sept. 2008, Goldman-Sachs bought 1/3 of ATS for $58 mil, days after Warren Buffett (Geico) invested $5 bil in G-S. Coincidence?


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