9/20/2011Louisiana: Legality of Municipal Red Light Camera Contract Questioned
Automated ticketing machines may not be legally operating in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Red light cameras and speed cameras may not be legally operating in Lafayette, Louisiana, according to current and former city officials. Councilman William G. Theriot was first to suggest that the city-parish President Joey Durel did not have the authority to unilaterally extend the contract with Australian automated ticketing vendor Redflex Traffic Systems when the agreement expired in June.
"I think a lot of people want to have a say so in what's involved in it," Theriot told KATC-TV. "Secondly if it is extended, we don't know if the terms were negotiated or what was involved."
When city staff in Los Angeles, California attempted to renew a photo ticketing contract, massive public opposition swayed elected leaders into deciding to drop the program. By having a purchasing clerk sign a renewal contract with Redflex, Durel avoided public notice and controversy, quietly keeping alive the program that is expected to generate $1.3 million in revenue this year. Durel and his staff contend that such renewals are routine business matters and do not require the attention of the full council.
A legal analysis of the situation offered on Saturday by a former assistant city attorney disagreed. Lester J. Gauthier Jr, now in private practice, sent a written opinion to council members arguing that the contract extension was invalid. The original four-year contract with the Australian photo ticketing vendor was adopted on June 5, 2007. It stated that the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (LCG) had the option of extending the contract annually. Lafayette's home rule charter expressly states that the government decision to "grant, renew or extend a franchise" requires an ordinance approved by the council.
"Thus it is my considered opinion that the granting, renewal and any extension of the franchise agreement by and between LCG and Redflex required council action by ordinance," Gauthier wrote. "I do not believe that the Redflex contract with Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government has been properly extended."
Gauthier further argued that a purchasing clerk does not have the authority to sign a contract or extension, even when the item is approved by an ordinance.