Texas: Mystery Of Red Light Camera Legislation Solved

The Newspaper
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For years it had been a mystery how the Texas House of Representatives, 83 percent of whose members voted to ban photo enforcement, could nonetheless endorse the use of red light cameras. An ethical storm that broke around state Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) last month provides the answer. Harper-Brown, a Transportation Committee member, accepted unreported gratuities from a traffic camera firm in return for playing the decisive role in establishing the automated ticketing industry in the Lone Star State.

Over the course of four legislative sessions from 1995 to 2003, the House outright rejected all attempts to give legislative legitimacy to intersection ticket cameras. There simply was no way to pass the legislation in an open floor vote. The industry turned to Harper-Brown, who willingly snuck a one-sentence provision allowing municipalities to issue “civil” citations for traffic crimes into unrelated legislation dealing with commercial motor vehicle standards. Most House members did not notice the provision until it was too late and were furious at what they saw as an underhanded move — the vote to strip Harper-Brown’s language passed by a three-to-one margin. The state Senate leadership, however, protected the cameras by using a parliamentary maneuver. Governor Rick Perry (R) did nothing to undo Harper-Brown’s work.

The Texas Values in Action Coalition (TEXVAC), a group that supports Democratic candidates, filed corruption charges with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas after it learned that Harper-Brown had been driving luxury vehicles paid for by a firm that tried to land lucrative traffic camera contracts. Harper-Brown drives a black 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan with official state license plates, a fact confirmed on video by WFAA-TV in Dallas. Paradigm Traffic Systems and Durable Specialties, firms owned by Jeffrey C. Bryan, provided another E-Class and a 2004 Chevy Tahoe to Harper-Brown and her husband William Brown.

“Unless there are facts that we could not uncover from the public record, it appears that Harper-Brown has engaged in a systematic and ongoing violation of the public trust where she has used her position on powerful committees in the Texas House to enrich herself and her friends,” Ed Cloutman, an attorney representing TEXVAC, said in a statement.

Harper-Brown defended her actions, saying that her husband’s work with Durable predated her election to the House by eighteen years and that his work is completely separate from hers. She insisted that her official financial disclosure is “complete, current and accurate,” even though it does not mention the free automobiles.

“You see, my husband and I have taken extra steps to make sure my personal financial statements fully comply with the law,” Harper-Brown said in a video statement. “And we keep our business interests completely separate to avoid any kind of conflicts. I’ve always been a fighter for open and transparent government. I won’t let some sleazy attacks from Washington, DC liberals stop me from fighting… They say anything to win so they can advance their partisan agenda.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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  • ChuckR ChuckR on Jul 06, 2010

    Well, we should see it done by the book. questions 1) did her husband really work with the red light camera company for 18 years before her election 2) at his employment level does his job description include not one but two moderately expensive company cars and can the company point to any other executive with a similar arrangement 3) is Texas so stupid that they don't require that legislators recuse themselves from anything related to a relative's business or employment I'll bet there's a gotcha on 2), but maybe not 3). And given many legislatures write their own ethics rules, sadly, you might even get away with 2). Also, while it is no excuse, look up how Tom and Linda Daschle worked both sides of the street during the time when he was a Senator (D). Tar and feather them, Donk and Republican alike. You wouldn't have to go far from Texas to find an abundant source of tar balls and oily seabird feathers. Just my $0.02 from RI, always a contender for the title of most corrupt state. As Lincoln Stephens said more than 100 years ago, RI is for sale, and for sale cheap. Still, its been hard to beat NJ or LA the last few decades.

  • Lumbergh21 Lumbergh21 on Jul 06, 2010

    I doubt that the court case will go far. It would be darn hard to prove a quid pro quo without recordings where she promised to help them in exchange for gifts. Heck, they couldn't prove anything against the Keating five even with Keating's testimony that he cetainly did expect some favors in exchange for his contributions. It didn't even stop Alan Cranston (Dem, CA), John Glenn (Dem, OH), or John McCain (Rep, AZ) from being re-elected shortly after the excrement hit the fan. It seems that no matter how dirty and sleazy you are, there is always a majority of voters willing to vote for the encumbent just so long as you promise them the right things.

    • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Jul 06, 2010

      +1. However, the financial disclosure statements could be her downfall. Texas, while hardly pristine, has pretty good transparency. Much better than the People's Republic of NY...

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