11/4/2007California: Court Strikes at Illegal Photo Ticket Contract
California court commissioner rules that red light camera cost neutrality contract provisions are illegal.
A court struck down a red light camera citation issued in Los Alamitos, California on January 23 because the city's photo ticketing program operated under an illegal contract. Superior Court Commissioner Ken Schwartz found that the so-called cost neutrality provision in the agreement between Los Alamitos and Australian camera operator Redflex violated a state law prohibiting compensation to ticketing companies, "based on the number of citations generated, or as a percentage of the revenue generated."
The provision in question guaranteed that Los Alamitos would not have to pay any part of the "flat rate" monthly fee that would result in the city losing money because Redflex was unable to issue a sufficient number of tickets. According to the Orange County Register newspaper, Schwartz ruled that this arrangement would "embolden the supplier to store more data and develop broader criteria" to ensure that the for-profit company never provided services to the city without collecting the full fee amount.
Schwartz then dismissed Nelson Nagai's citation. The motorist had made the contracting argument after learning of the irregularities from the highwayrobbery.net website, which was first to publicize the issue as it applies to dozens of cities throughout the state. The lower court opinion is not binding on other jurisdictions, but a veteran attorney who was instrumental in shutting down San Diego's red light camera program in 2001 over illegal contracting procedures thinks the reasoning could sway other judges.
"A respected commissioner writing an opinion that way... is going to have persuasive authority in arguments in front of other commissioners," Arthur Tait told the Register.
Last year, Los Alamitos issued 6125 photo tickets worth $2 million.