5/10/2019Whistleblower Speed Camera Cop Defeats DC
Unsuccessful challenge to the cop who blew the whistle on the speed camera program costs Washington, DC an extra $40,507 in legal fees.
The District of Columbia will have to cut an extra check for $40,507 to the veteran police officer who blew the whistle on speed camera corruption. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Sergeant Mark E. Robinson, who formerly worked on the city's speed camera program, suffered retaliation after he pointed out serious problems with the way the program was run.
Robinson explained that the cameras were not being set up properly, and the program's manager, Lisa Sutter, "had an improper relationship with a non-profit organization." Sutter, formerly a long-time speed camera company employee, left MPD in 2015. On Wednesday, US District Judge Rudolph Contreras rejected the city's attempt to nullify the jury verdict in Robinson's favor on the grounds of racial discrimination (Robinson is black).
"Assignment to the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit was apparently lucrative," Judge Contreras explained. "Mr. Robinson earned significant overtime pay while in the division... the jury found that the District discriminated against Mr. Robinson by denying him Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit overtime opportunities, and it awarded him $750 in damages."
In addition to those compensatory damages, Robinson was entitled to $63,000 in back pay and $289,478 to cover his legal expenses up to the jury verdict. Judge Contreras rejected the District's attempt to contest the attorneys' fees, and on Wednesday he boosted the award by $40,507 to cover the cost of calculating the fees as a result of all the extra litigation. The District insisted that the claim for back pay was merely speculative, because there was no proof Robinson would have actually earned all of the hours that were available to him. Robinson countered that he worked 1000 hours when he had full access to speed camera overtime, but when MPD officials forced him out of the program, he could only work 530 overtime hours in his new assignment. He was only allowed to work randomly scheduled special events, like motorcades and parades, but the District was unable to show Robinson ever turned down an overtime shift.
"Given the District's weak showing, it was not unreasonable for the jury to side with Mr. Robinson," Judge Contreras wrote. "The District also fails to appreciate that Mr. Robinson's argument turned not just on the volume of hours available in the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit Overtime Program, but also on the flexible nature of those hours."
Photo radar overtime was available around the clock, but Robinson had been transferred to a special events unit that had sporadic opportunities during inconvenient times.
A copy of Wednesday's opinion is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.