12/7/2005Pennsylvania House Keeps Red Light Coverup Legislation
The Pennsylvania House adopts legislation allowing release of red light camera statistics, but not important reports and documents.
The Pennsylvania House approved legislation yesterday that may continue to shield its private red light camera vendor from public and judicial scrutiny. The legislation, approved by a 185-6 vote, repeats a prohibition already signed into law that forbids "written records, reports or facsimiles" from being "discoverable by court order or otherwise." Instead, the new legislation merely allows statistical numbers on camera operations to be released and adds a statement that, "The restrictions set forth in this paragraph are intended to protect the privacy of individuals."
The vague language leaves in place a provision that can be used to shield camera vendor Mulvihill Intelligent Control Systems from release of documents pertaining to the operation of the camera system unrelated to any personal information. The law could simply have required redaction of personal information as a means to protect privacy.
Instead, the original red light camera law was written in such a way as to favor vendor ACS by specifying only obsolete wet film technology could be employed in the camera program. ACS is one of the few companies that still use film, and happened to have donated $135,000 to state and local officials and spent an additional $175,910 on lobbying. ACS also had lost millions in 2001 when a court ordered the release of confidential company memos that proved ACS (then Lockheed Martin IMS) targeted downhill intersections with short yellow times for camera placement. This led a San Diego, California judge to rule evidence produced by the company untrustworthy and inadmissible.
The information shield law specifically prevents any such court oversight of Philadelphia's red light camera program.
Relevant Excerpt from HOUSE BILL No. 1993 Session of 2005
INTRODUCED BY GEIST AND McCALL, SEPTEMBER 27, 2005 AS AMENDED ON THIRD CONSIDERATION, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 6, 2005
(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, information prepared under this section and information relating to violations under this section which is kept by the city of the first class, its authorized agents or its employees, including photographs, written records, reports or facsimiles, names, addresses and the number of violations under this section, shall be for the exclusive use of the city, its authorized agents, its employees and law enforcement officials for the purpose of discharging their duties under this section and under any ordinances and resolutions of the city. The information shall not be deemed a public record under the act of June 21, 1957 (P.L.390, No.212), referred to as the Right-to-Know Law. The information shall not be discoverable by court order or otherwise, nor shall it be offered in evidence in any action or proceeding which is not directly related to a violation of this section or any ordinance or resolution of the city. The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be deemed to preclude a court of competent jurisdiction from issuing an order directing that the information be provided to law enforcement officials if the information is reasonably described and is requested solely in connection with a criminal law enforcement action. The restrictions set forth in this paragraph are intended to protect the privacy of individuals and refer to information relating to specific drivers and vehicles. Nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the city of the first class or its authorized agents from providing the public with statistical information regarding the number of violations and fines imposed, a compilation of fines paid and outstanding and the amount of money paid to a vendor or manufacturer under this section, provided that no individual driver or vehicle is identified.