Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Baltimore Denies Access To City Speed Camera Audit

A Baltimore City Council Member is demanding that the city release an independent audit of the city's speed camera program to The Baltimore Sun.  The Sun placed a Public Information Act request for the city's findings, but city lawyers denied the request, citing a settlement between the city and Xerox to keep the documents secret.
City Solicitor George Nilson, the administration's chief lawyer, said releasing the audit would violate the city's settlement agreement with Xerox and "create obvious risks and potential exposure for the city."
"The fact that the particular system subject to the audit has not been in operation for a year strongly mitigates in favor of maintaining the privilege and complying with the city's settlement agreement," Nilson wrote in an email to The Sun.
Xerox operated the city's camera system until Jan. 1, 2013. A Sun investigation of the city's network of 83 radar-equipped speed cameras during the Xerox era found numerous problems, including erroneous speed readings. The company later reported that an internal review found five cameras with high error rates.
In its settlement, the city agreed to pay Xerox $2.3 million for invoices dating to late 2012. The city also agreed to keep confidential any documents "referring or relating to, or reflecting, each party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions."
In late February, the city Board of Estimates agreed to pay URS $278,000 for work that included an audit of Xerox's internal review. Nilson said the audit was "a critical part of the settlement negotiations and figured prominently in the conclusion of those discussions," adding that it was "unequivocally done in anticipation of possible litigation."
Young said the administration at least should have disclosed the outcome of the Xerox audit to the five-member Board of Estimates, which he chairs. Such information could help board members make key decisions, such as authorizing payments to vendors.
"I think they should share it," he said. "They said it was confidential. I do understand why they didn't want to share it, but I do think they should have said something to me about what transpired."
Pratt said she, too, should have been briefed on the findings, adding, "It appears that the public should know; it should be full transparency."
Read More in the Baltimore Sun

Baltimore City's speed camera program was shut down after a series of errors.  The city's former contractor, Xerox, admitted that for some of their cameras one in 20 tickets was actually an error, including tickets issued to stationary vehicles.  The city switched to another vendor, Brekford Corporation, but then had to shut the program down after new errors occurred.