Two lawmakers who want to repeal state laws authorizing red-light cameras are holding a press conference Monday to discuss the details of a recent state report that highlights strengths and weaknesses of the program. But this news is getting all the attention: that a former executive for a prominent red light camera vendor is accusing the company of offering gifts and bribes to officials in Florida and 13 other states to gain contracts.
That company -- RedFlex Traffic Systems of Phoenix -- has at least one big contract in Florida: Jacksonville.
Here is more from that city's paper, the Florida Times-Union:
RedFlex Traffic Systems, the Arizona-based firm that installed and monitors cameras at 25 intersections in Jacksonville, has been mired in controversy surrounding a $100 million contract it had with the city of Chicago, which has since fired the company. Company officials admitted last year that the contract, one of the largest in the country, was likely the result of a $2 million bribery scheme involving a former Chicago city official who oversaw the red-light camera program, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Now, Aaron Rosenberg, RedFlexs former top salesman who was fired and sued by the company in the wake of the scandal, has shot back at the company with a counter lawsuit, alleging the company routinely gave gifts and bribes to government officials in attempt to steer contracts. The lawsuit did not elaborate on the bribery accusations, and nobody involved in the controversy has been charged with a crime. Rosenbergs lawyer has said his client is cooperating with a federal investigation, according to the Chicago Tribune.
RedFlex denied Rosenbergs allegations in a written statement Thursday and vowed to "aggressively defend itself."
The biggest red light camera vendor in Florida is RedFlex's rival, American Traffic Solutions. That company has contracts in Miami, Tampa, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale.
We have asked RedFlex for a list of all its Florida clients and hope to hear back once the work week begins. According to its website, Redflex participated in last month's meeting of the Florida Police Chiefs Association in St. Augustine.
Concerns about the true intentions of the state's red light cameras are what caused State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, to file SB 144 to repeal the law. Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, filed the companion HB 4009. Both have yet to receive a committee hearing.
"This program was originally sold as being about safety," Brandes told us in September. "I have come to believe that its now about revenue."
Monday, Brandes and Artiles will discuss the results of a recent study by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability on red light cameras. Some highlights from the OPPAGA report:
-Cameras are found in 74 municipalities and 5 counties extending over a total of 26 Florida counties.
-As of June 30, there were 922 intersections where cameras are installed, most of them in Central and South Florida.
-In addition to red light running, the study said that 57 percent of jurisdictions also cite drivers for turning right on red without coming to a complete stop and 30 percent use red light cameras to enforce turning right on red when "no turn on red" signs are posted.
-Red light fines are $158 per violation; the money is split between the municipality where the violation occurred, the state and two health-focused trust funds.
-Total revenue statewide increased from $37.6 million in 2010-2011 to $118.9 million in 2012-2013.
-Jurisdictions pay vendors between $4,250 and $4,750 per camera, per month.
The study also looked at whether red light cameras improved the safety of intersections. Like others before it, OPPAGA concluded that "crashes resulting in fatalities decreased at red light camera intersections on state roads but rear-end and angle crashes increased." Lastly, the report lists some possible modifications to the red light camera program to improve implementation and quality:
-Require local jurisdictions to obtain permits from the state by proving there is a genuine safety need before red light cameras are installed.
-Require local jurisdictions to conduct a traffic engineering study before cameras are installed in an intersection.
-Establish a penalty if local jurisdictions are not complying with state standards for yellow light timing.
-Establish a uniform standard for enforcement of right-on-red violations.
-Penalize jurisdictions that don't report data on red light cameras by the state deadline.
-Futher specify the types of data that jurisdictions must report to the state.
-Restrict local districts from using red light camera revenue for any uses beyond public safety or traffic safety issues.