California: Traffic Camera Firm Shakes Down City

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
california traffic camera firm shakes down city

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.


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  • 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.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂