Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Salisbury Records Show Calibration Lapses

The Maryland Drivers Alliance had been trying for months to obtain copies of annual calibration certificates and daily setup logs from Salisbury, after the city claimed that all records were in the hands of their contractor.  Now, the Washington Times reports that they have obtained some of the same records we had been seeking, and sure enough the documents do have some problems.

The Times asked the city, as part of a formal media request under the Maryland Public Information Act, for the following information on October 28th:

1. The annual calibration certificates issued by the independent calibration laboratory for the all speed monitoring systems (i.e. speed cameras) deployed in Salisbury, as specified in transportation article §21-809(b)(4), which were in effect for any portion of 2011-2013.  If a device has been replaced or re-certified, we are seeking all versions of the certificates since the inception of Salisbury's speed camera program.

2. The signed daily set-up logs or 'daily self test logs,' as required by §21-809, for the speed monitoring systems deployed at the following locations and dates:
    a) 700 East Main Street, May 21, 2013
    b) 300 Block East College Ave, May 22, 2013
    c) 700 East Main Street, May 22, 2013
    d) 300 Block East College West Bound, June 3, 2013
    e) 300 Block East College West Bound, June 4, 2013
    f) 700 East Main Street Northbound, June 4, 2013
    g) 600 Blk Bus Rt. 50 West Bound, July 11, 2013
    h) 600 Blk Bus Rt. 50 East Bound, July 26, 2013
    i) 700 East Main Street, January 7-January 11 2013 (5 days)
    j) 700 East Main Street, February 4-February 8 2013 (5 days)

Salisbury provided documents to the Times, which you can see here in their entirely.

Annual calibrations were provided for ten devices.  State law specifies:
   (4) (i) A speed monitoring system shall undergo an annual calibration check performed by an independent calibration laboratory.
      (ii) The independent calibration laboratory shall issue a signed certificate of calibration after the annual calibration check that:
         1. Shall be kept on file; and
         2. Shall be admitted as evidence in any court proceeding for a violation of this section.
The annual calibration certificates for the first year for each of the devices was issued by the manufacturer of the device, Sensys.  The basis for allowing a manufacturer certification to be "independent" is a dubious interpretation of the law.  In addition many of the 'annual' calibrations were in fact issued for 13 months, which would not seem to be 'annual', and a court in Washington County has ruled as such.  

Of the first year certificates, five of them appear to have had more than 12 months between the initial test date and the retest date.  For example: 
  • A camera with serial number F3F8B512000 was certified on 1/19/2012 but not re-tested until 3/30/2012... 41 days after the expiration of the 13 (not 12) month period.  
  • One with serial number B0FAB5120000 was initially tested by the manufacturer on 12/27/2011 but not retested until 1/27/2013.  
  • Serial number ACEBB5120000 was initially tested on 12/21/2011 but not retested until 1/27/2013. 
  • Serial Number CEFEB5120000 was initially tested by Sensys on 4/6/2011 but not retested until 7/18/2012. Serial number 6DDAB512000 was certified on 4/6/2011, 7/18/2012 (15 months after), and then again on 10/16/2013 (15 months after).
In addition, while the Times requested a total of 18 daily setup logs (also a requirement of the law), only FOUR total documents were provided.  Of the days produced, ALL of them has some issue:
  • A log for 6/3/2013  was provided, but which had no operator signature on it
  • A log for 7/11/2013 had been requested, but instead a log dated 7/11/2012 was provided
  • A log for 7/28/2013 was provided, for the opposite direction requested by the Times
No logs at all were provided to the Times for any dates requested before June.

We have confirmed that citations were issued on 700 East Main Street on May 21 and 300 East College Avenue on May 22, and at 600 Block of Bus Rt. 50 West Bound, July 11, 2013 based on citations provided to us by local residents.

The requirement for daily logs is also in transportation article 21-809:
   (3) A speed monitoring system operator shall fill out and sign a daily set-up log for a speed monitoring system that:
      (i) States that the speed monitoring system operator successfully performed the manufacturer-specified self-test of the speed monitoring system prior to producing a recorded image;
      (ii) Shall be kept on file; and
      (iii) Shall be admitted as evidence in any court proceeding for a violation of this section.
As such it would seem that all of the unsigned logs are legally invalid, and not having any log at all "on file" for certain days would not be valid either.

Item #1 from the Washington Times request, for annual calibration certificates, was also part of our own request we had placed in June of 2013.  Our own request had also included daily setup logs, however the dates we had requested were different.  Salisbury responded to our own Maryland Public Information Act request by stating that all records were kept by the contractor, who stated to the city that obtaining such records would costs a total $535 in search fees, including $235 for making copies.  The disclosure to the Washington Times, which asked for a similar number of pages, was 50 pages and provided as a PDF (ie no physical copies).  According to sources Brekford maintains records of this sort in an electronic, searchable database which allows records to be retrieved as a PDF with a few clicks of a mouse.

We had requested to Salisbury's Mayor that they perform an 'administrative review', as defined under the MPIA.  Mayor Ireton referred questions about this issue to the town attorney, who has not responded to any emails pertaining to our request for administrative review.  However after the Times obtained these documents, some annual calibration certificates were provided to another individual who had been seeking them... three months after he had placed his request.

Had the documents been made available to the Maryland Drivers Alliance in a timely manner, the public might have been notified of these possible issues and people who received tickets could have chosen to contest them on that basis.  In general Maryland courts have upheld that once a citation is paid their is no legal recourse for a driver, so potentially the delay in making documents has denied some motorists the ability to use this information to make a determination to dispute tickets in time for them to do so.

Hagerstown and Greenbelt both issued citation refunds earlier this year after it was found that citations had been issued while annual calibration certificates had gone more than a year without retesting.

Summary of released documents and issues
Salisbury Calibration Documents
Washington Times Editorial: Revenue camera shakedown