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Texas: Group Calls On Austin To Refund Illegally Issued Photo Tickets
Campaign for Liberty calls on Austin, Texas to refund red light camera tickets issued without complying with state law.

Austin City Council
Local activists are stepping up their fight against the questionable use of red light cameras in Texas. On Friday, the Campaign for Liberty urged its members in the Austin area to pressure the city council into refunding eight years worth of automated citations. The free market group points out that the city has failed to meet the minimum requirements for operating a camera program, as spelled out in state law.

"Austin officials thought they would never get caught," the email to members said. "They figured they could just keep pocketing their illegal money for as long as they wanted to. I am asking you to prove them wrong."

In June, a Dallas County judge ruled that photo citations were only valid if a city could show it conducted an engineering study and had convened a citizen's advisory committee prior to installing cameras (view case). Austin did none of these things. While some cities claim their programs are grandfathered under the 2007 law, Austin did not finalize its contract until 2008, after the law took effect.

Under a freedom of information request, Austin was unable to produce a copy of a formal traffic engineering study, nor could it provide minutes from any citizen's advisory committee meeting. This failure prompted the Campaign for Liberty last month to ask Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to investigate the failure to abide by state law. Lehmberg did not respond to the request. Byron Schirmbeck, Campaign For Liberty's Texas director, says Austin should not be allowed to get away with flouting the law.

"Instead of doing the right thing when caught with their hand in the cookie jar Austin officials chose to stonewall, hide and ignore the public," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "Isn't it ironic that all these elected officials continue to send out tickets demanding payment for what they say is a violation of the law but refuse to hold themselves accountable for their own undeniable violations of the law?"

The group points out that when The Woodlands was caught without red light camera studies, officials decided to cancel the program entirely. The new campaign is designed to pressure Austin into following suit.

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