California: Traffic Camera Firm Shakes Down City

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

As municipalities around the country increasingly have second thoughts about continuing red light camera programs, the private companies in charge of the photo ticketing are turning up the heat. Redflex Traffic Systems announced to its Australian shareholders last week that it continues to adjust contract language, boosting the penalties for cities that turn their back on photo ticketing. Just such language has hit in San Bernardino, California where rival photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is threatening to impose an extra $1,896,202 fee to punish the city council for attempting to get out of the contract in March. Officials had already approved cutting a check for $175,000 to the company as compensation.

City leaders were shocked to find the penalty for early withdrawal from the contract may have been underestimated by a factor of ten. Police Chief Keith L. Kilmer blamed the mistake on the sloppy work of the city attorney’s office. The city’s legal team blamed Kilmer for providing bad information. In a February 1 memo, Assistant City Attorney Jolena E. Grider calculated the cancellation price as $975 per intersection multiplied by the number of months remaining from the original five-year contract. Grider’s memo, however, confused the term “approach” and “intersection.” Each intersection has four approaches or directions of travel. That means up to four individual cameras can be installed for each intersection.

“I asked police employees several times if installed approach was the same as intersection and was told numerous times that it was,” Grider wrote. “It was not until I received information from ATS a few weeks ago that I learned differently. All the information I received at the time I wrote and based the February memorandum on was from the police department and from no other source.”

Chief Kilmer blasted the city attorney for going to the press and trying to pass the blame for a legal mistake to his department.

“This information about contract terminology was not provided by the police department,” Kilmer wrote in an August 16 memo. “It was within the contract document itself, which I would assume that the city attorney’s office had some hand in preparing and reviewing on multiple occasions.”

The city attorney’s office fired back at Kilmer, insisting negotiations were under way with ATS to arrive at a “mutually beneficial resolution” and that the incorrect information in the February memo could not be used in a court of law.

“There is nothing to be gained by the city of San Bernardino by this type of finger pointing in his memorandum and the inaccuracies cannot be left uncorrected,” Jolena E. Grider wrote on August 17.


The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
6 of 19 comments
  • Carguy Carguy on Aug 31, 2011

    I'm not sure that "shake down" here is the appropriate phrase. I dislike RLCs as much as the next guy but these companies are simply protecting themselves from cost associated with early termination. It costs resources to implement these cameras and sometimes that means that deals are only profitable in later years so early termination can mean a loss or no profit. If cities are signing contracts and then changing their minds because of a voter backlash then they will still need to abide by the terms of the contract. The real problem here are the city administrations that lack long term vision and are flip-flopping between short term money making schemes and reacting to vote backlash.

    • See 1 previous
    • Stuki Stuki on Sep 01, 2011

      Cities don't sign contracts. Corrupt, or simply sadistic or stupid, people who are in City government do. Voters can, over the objections of lawyers everywhere screaming about "rule of law" and precedence, simply either elect people who refuse to tax anyone to pay these termination fees, or simply dissolve the entire legal entity that once supposedly "signed" the contract. Then reincorporate later as something else, should they feel like it. Rather than live in a city where one is bound by "promises" made by the kind of back markers that would sign anything like this, one is better off living in unincorporated territory anyway. I'm sure it will be a hard slog past decades of legal precedent to get there, but the survival of America as an even remotely civilized place to live, depends on people finally waking up and realizing contacts ought to be binding on those that sign them. Not on the children of those who didn't.

  • Jpolicke Jpolicke on Aug 31, 2011

    Why don't they they leave the cameras up and running, but pass an ordinance saying that no city funds or manpower may be expended in collecting RLC fines? Let the companies take their pictures and mail out the tickets. Payment would become voluntary.

    • See 1 previous
    • Nikita Nikita on Aug 31, 2011

      Thats what happened in Los Angeles. The courts refused to honor the machine-generated tickets, so payment became voluntary, and, for reasons I dont fully understand, not show up on your credit report either.

  • C-b65792653 I'm starting to wonder about Elon....again!!I see a parallel with Henry Ford who was the wealthiest industrialist at one time. Henry went off on a tangent with the peace ship for WWI, Ford TriMotor, invasive social engineering, etc. Once the economy went bad, the focus fell back to cars. Elon became one of the wealthiest industrialist in the 21st century. Then he went off with the space venture, boring holes in the ground venture, "X" (formerly Twitter), etc, etc, etc. Once Tesla hit a plateau and he realized his EVs were a commodity, he too is focused on his primary money making machine. Yet, I feel Elon is over reacting. Down sizing is the nature of the beast in the auto industry; you can't get around that. But hacking the Super Charger division is like cutting off your own leg. IIRC, GM and Ford were scheduled to sign on to the exclusive Tesla charging format. That would have doubled or tripled his charging opportunity. I wonder what those at the Renaissance Center and the Glass House are thinking now. As alluded to, there's blood in the water and other charging companies will fill the void. I believe other nations have standardized EV charging (EU & China). Elon had the chance to have his charging system as the default in North America. Now, he's dropped the ball. He's lost considerable influence on what the standardized format will eventually be. Tremendous opportunity lost. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos I never used winter tires, and the last two decades I am driving almost only rear wheel drive cars, half of them in MI. I always bought all season tires for them, but the diff between touring and non touring flavors never came up. Does it make even the smallest bit of difference? (I will not read the lengthy article because I believe it does not).
  • Lou_BC ???
  • Lou_BC Mustang sedan? 4 doors? A quarterhorse?Ford nomenclature will become:F Series - Pickups Raptor - performance division Bronco - 4x4 SUV/CUVExplorer - police fleetsMustang- cars
  • Ede65792611 Got one. It was my Dad's and now has 132K on it. I pay my Mercedes guy zillions of dollars to keep it going. But, I do, and he does and it's an excellent vehicle. I've put in the full Android panel for BT handsfree and streaming with a backup cam.