10/1/2019Iowa Supreme Court Considers Speed Camera Secrecy
Iowa Supreme Court hears oral arguments in case involving public access to information in the speed camera ticket database.
A former police sergeant wants data from the speed camera ticketing database in Ottumwa, Iowa. Last month, the state Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the city can continue withholding information generated by the automated ticketing machines from Mark Leonard Milligan and from the public.
"Just because the government uses that information doesn't necessarily make that information a public record," city attorney David E. Schrock told the court. "The person requesting the record has to have an authorized use as well."
Schrock insisted that the source of the information made it protected from disclosure. Justice Christopher McDonald pointed out that automated ticket recipients under the city ordinance can request to receive a regular municipal infraction instead of the civil citation that is mailed by the automated ticketing machine. The municipal infraction records become public as soon as they are entered into the court system.
"The source of the infraction is the same," Justice McDonald asked. "So why is one discoverable and one not?"
The city attorney repeated that the source of the information makes the situations different.
"The only way we got the names of those violators was through the NLETS database, which is the Iowa system where you have the driver's license records," Schrock explained. "With that, this is different from a police officer going out and issuing a traffic citation to a member of the public because, in that case, we are obtaining their identifying information from their driver's license."
Milligan's lawyer, Steve Gardner, challenged the city's argument by saying every ticket, including parking ticket, is a public record, so there should be nothing different about a photo radar ticket.
"I can go and get a motor vehicle accident report from the Department of Transportation any time I want, concerning anyone I want, and it contains all the information regarding the drivers involved in that motor vehicle accident," Gardner said.
Milligan was fired from the Ottumwa police force after the sergeant sued the city in his personal capacity to obtain a number of documents regarding the speed camera program. After Milligan won a related open records case regarding the use of the speed camera car owned by the vendor Redspeed, the city was forced to settled with Milligan over his unlawful dismissal.