Tag Archives: red light camera

Lawsuit seeks to block Emanuel’s red-light camera do-over

(CHICAGO) Mayor Rahm Emanuel should be stopped in his tracks from giving 1.5 million motorists a red-light camera ticket do-over because his after-the-fact fix to a problem with those tickets violates state law, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Two months after the City Council agreed to give drivers nailed by red-light and speed cameras a second chance to challenge their tickets, plaintiffs’ attorney Jacie Zolna wants a Cook County judge to overturn the ordinance, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

A judge has ruled — and the city has acknowledged — that it denied due process to the 1.5 million motorists by failing to send those drivers a second notice of their violations. The Emanuel administration further erred by imposing $100 late fees.

In September, aldermen agreed to correct those “procedural errors” in hopes it would bolster the city’s case against a lawsuit with the potential to force the city to refund $200 million in fines and late fees dating back to the 2003 inception of the scandal-scarred red-light camera program.

The lawsuit maintains the mayor’s ordinance is “at odds with virtually every procedural requirement” of the Illinois Vehicle Code and “completely undermines its purpose to ensure the ‘fair and efficient’ adjudication” of speed and red light camera violations.

“The city . . . cannot willy-nilly change its own laws to give itself a second opportunity to extract fines and penalties from its citizens. To the contrary, the city’s ability to enforce speed and red-light camera violations is specifically limited by Illinois law,” the lawsuit states.

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey called the lawsuit “baseless.”

“It is clear that the notices of violation for each of the violations affected by the 2016 ordinance are valid under the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Municipal Code of Chicago, and the suit is challenging an ordinance that can only benefit the individuals represented in the suit,” McCaffrey said in an email.

“The new ordinance is not to designed to find any new violations of the traffic laws, but to give past violators an additional opportunity to challenge previously imposed liability.”

If the city issues second notices, motorists will have 30 days to choose whether to appear before an administrative hearing officer and challenge their tickets on grounds they were issued in error.

The five-year window — March 23, 2010, to May 14, 2015 — is tied to the statute of limitations and the date the city eliminated the second notice requirement in yet another, after-the-fact attempt to avoid liability.

The ordinance would also allow roughly 5,000 motorists who paid late fees too soon to get $100 refunds for those penalties paid in error. Those motorists would be given 60 days to make that request.

In September, Corporation Counsel Steve Patton contended the ordinance would “bolster our defense” and could “form the basis for a fair and reasonable settlement.” But he has maintained that a “procedural failure does not render a ticket invalid” and that there is no justification for blanket refunds.

“Those tickets are valid. The violation occurred. The red light was run. Somebody sped unless and until they go the Department of Administrative Hearings and show that’s not the case,” Patton told aldermen.

“What we’re talking about is a subsequent procedural error. And it shouldn’t be the opportunity for a gotcha to have a windfall for thousands and thousands of people to avoid any liability and get a refund.”

Zolna and his partner Myron Cherry have branded the ordinance “too little, too late” that will only invite more litigation and “add another chapter” to a red-light program built on a $2 million bribery scandal.

“For over a decade, the city failed to follow their own rules in providing people the proper notice. Then, they sped up liabilities and doubled fines prematurely. And here we are again. They get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and all they want to do is keep changing the rules,” Zolna said.

“If they enforce this law, and try to collect under it, we’ll be able to recover that money. What you have now are two lawsuits that involve somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million. While the law generally doesn’t allow a double recovery, the way the city worded this new ordinance by creating new and separate liabilities leaves open the possibility that there could be two judgments for the same amount.”

Man given 6-months for passing along red-light camera bribes

(CHICAGO) A man who participated in a bribery scheme that steered $100 million in red-light camera contracts to an Arizona company has received a six-month prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in sentencing Martin O’Malley on Monday said the case against the man at the center of the bribery couldn’t have been prosecuted without his testimony.

O’Malley told the judge his actions were “deplorable.”

The 75-year-old O’Malley faced up to five years in prison after admitting he passed $560,000 in cash bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to Chicago City Hall insider John Bills.

Kendall last month sentenced the 55-year-old Bills, who was convicted in January, to 10 years in prison for bribery, conspiracy and extortion.

Bills was accused of accepting cash and gifts worth $2 million to help Redflex obtain contracts in a decade-long scheme.


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Red-light, speed-cam lawsuit gets stronger after deposition

(CHICAGO) A city official’s damaging deposition Thursday appeared to strengthen a lawsuit with the potential to force cash-strapped Chicago to refund $200 million in fines and late fees paid by motorists denied due process after receiving red-light camera and speed-camera tickets, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Tina Consola, managing deputy director of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Department of Finance, acknowledged that City Hall “accelerated the determination of liability on the front end, sped up late penalties on the back end” and changed the law when a judge raised questions about the process, according to plaintiffs attorney Jacie Zolna, who questioned Consola.

Potentially more damaging was Consola’s response when Zolna confronted her with a photograph used to issue a speed-camera ticket to one of his clients accused of going 34 mph near Orr High School in a zone that was marked as having a 20 mph speed limit, but only when children were present.

“She could not discern whether it was a child in the picture. Yet, she also told me it was a completely acceptable practice for the city to issue such tickets,” Zolna said Thursday.

“They’re putting the impossible burden on people of trying to determine whether a blob in a picture is a school child. They’re collecting on tickets that never should have been issued in the first place.”

“The City continues to believe that it will prevail in this case and nothing said in the deposition today changes that,” Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email. The evidence shows that the plaintiffs violated the law and received notices of these violations, and therefore are not entitled to any recovery. We will continue to focus on defending this case in court, and not on trying the case in the media.”

Zolna also cited several other potentially damaging admissions by Consola. She disclosed that:

  • In February 2016, shortly after a judge accused the city of denying motorists due process, the state stopped siphoning state tax refunds of speed-cam and red-light camera scofflaws for fear that Zolna would win the lawsuit.
  • About a month later, the city stopped booting vehicles owned by speed-camera and red-light camera scofflaws and stopped asking the state to suspend their driver’s licenses. When Zolna asked Consola why, an attorney representing the city “refused to let her answer.”
  • Around the same time, the city changed its procedures to give motorists 21 days to contest a notice, instead of 14 days, and lengthened — from 21 to 25 days — the grace period before late fees are tacked on.
  • IBM — the company awarded a 10-year, $188 million contract to operate the computer system used to generate millions of parking, red-light camera and speed-camera tickets — makes the final determination of when tickets are issued, not the city.

Earlier this year, a Circuit Court judge accused City Hall of violating the “fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience” by issuing thousands of red-light and speed-camera tickets. The motorists who sued alleged they were denied due process because they were not given a second notice of their violations.

Technically, Circuit Judge Kathleen Kennedy simply rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the case and kept alive a lawsuit Zolna filed on behalf of three ticketed motorists.

But the wording of her ruling was so strong there was little doubt thousands of red-light and speed-camera tickets issued since 2003 would ultimately be nullified, potentially forcing the city to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties already paid.

“The second notice provision is designed to protect a non-responding violator’s right to contest a violation before determination of liability issues. This right is generally injured by a directory reading,” the ruling stated. “Therefore, the term ‘shall’ means mandatory in the second notice provisions. . . . Because the second notice requirement at issue is mandatory under the [municipal code of Chicago], the determinations of liability are void and subject to collateral attack.”

Kennedy ruled that the three named plaintiffs in the case had “sufficiently alleged facts showing that the city’s retention of payments from determinations made without a second notice violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience.”

“The alleged practice of accelerating late fees without statutory compliance is sufficient to show a violation of the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience,” the judge wrote.

Armed with that ruling, Zolna had hoped to forge ahead with his request for class-action status after months of discovery to determine precisely how many motorists are eligible for refunds.

He subsequently accused the city of trying to slow that process to a crawl by refusing to cough up records and produce a “corporate representative” for a deposition. Kennedy then ordered the deposition.

The stonewalling allegation marked the latest chapter in a long-running saga between Zolna and the city.

Days after Kennedy’s ruling, Zolna accused Emanuel of changing the rules in the middle of the game in a move he branded an “admission of guilt” that strengthens his claim to refunds.

Without fanfare, Emanuel asked the City Council to amend Chicago’s municipal code to drop the step that Zolna’s lawsuit had accused City Hall of skipping.

No longer would the city be required to send a second notice of violation prior to issuing a determination of liability against motorists slapped with speed-camera and red-light camera tickets.

In addition to abolishing the second-notice requirement that Zolna had accused the city of ignoring, City Hall made an administrative change to correct the due process violation cited in the lawsuit.

Instead of assessing late penalties whenever motorists don’t pay up within 21 days of a liability determination, the city started abiding by the 25-day grace period required by law.

Mayor Emanuel announces new red light camera reform

                                                                                                  photo credit:Bill Cameron

(Chicago)  Under pressure from drivers who are angry about those red light cameras that mail you $100 tickets, Mayor Emanuel has announced a new red light camera reform.

Rahm says he wants to keep the red light cameras for public safety, but when asked how he wants to reform them he announced this new innovation, “I want to make sure we have the countdown clock throughout the system.  That’s another additional reform – always be open to changing, but make sure we never give up the public safety and traffic safety gains that we’ve made.”

Countdown clocks tell both drivers and pedestrians how much time is left before a yellow light turns red.

The mayor also acknowledged that his motorcade has picked up more red light tickets.  He says he is paying them even though they might be caused by his tail car needing to stay with the lead car as they go thru intersections.  

Bill Cameron, 89 WLS News.