Saturday, August 23, 2014

Baltimore Sun: RedFlex Lobbying to Win Baltimore City Camera Contract

From the Baltimore Sun:
Traffic camera giant Redflex has been lobbying the Rawlings-Blake administration and City Council to take over Baltimore's once-lucrative speed and red-light camera network — stressing that it should not be judged by an unfolding scandal in Chicago in which a former executive is charged with bribery.
The Arizona-based firm ran Chicago's red-light cameras for a decade, generating $500 million in revenue, but lost the work last year amid city and federal investigations. Officials in Baltimore said Thursday that the company, which was once a finalist to run this city's system, has used the recent talks to distance itself from the Chicago indictments.
Redflex is the third speed camera company to register lobbyists in an attempt to run Baltimore's system — once the largest in North America. The company has retained local lawyers Kenneth J. Battle Jr. and Kimberly Robinson of the Funk & Bolton firm, who have registered as lobbyists with the city, documents show.
The local system has been shut down for more than a year following The Baltimore Sun's revelations about erroneous tickets. The Sun investigation found errors at many cameras, including tickets issued for slow-moving or stopped cars. When operating, the network of 83 speed cameras and 81 red-light cameras brought more than $140 million to city government through $40 speed camera citations given out in school zones and $75 red light camera tickets.
Harris said the administration is waiting for the City Council to complete an investigation of Baltimore's camera problems before requesting new bids."We told [Redflex representatives] what we tell everyone: It's not something we're looking to do in the immediate future," Harris said. "If that changes, they can bid like everybody else."
But Councilman Robert Curran said he's been actively petitioning the administration to find a new operator for safety reasons and to plug the revenue gap.
"Why don't we have them back up? What's going on? We're losing revenue," Curran said. "What are we doing to get the program back up?"
Redflex is at the center of a federal grand jury probe in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune; the city inspector general is also investigating. Last week, a former Redflex Traffic Systems CEO and a top City Hall manager were indicted on charges of conspiring to rig that city's red-light camera business for a decade. 
The Redflex executive, Karen Finley, was indicted along with former Chicago official John Bills and a longtime Bills friend accused of being the bagman in a $2 million bribery scheme that ran from 2002 until 2012, when the Tribune first disclosed Bills' ties to the company, the paper reported. They all have denied the charges.
Councilwoman Helen Holton, one of several council members who has been approached by the lobbyists, is eager for the cameras to go back online. Still, she hopes the city insists on more control over the program.
"I look at the revenue that other jurisdictions are getting and ask, 'Why would we not?'" she said. 
Read the complete article in the Baltimore Sun