7/18/2009Canada: Lawsuit Targets Winnipeg Speed Camera Vendors
A lawsuit seeks a refund of the $177 million in speed camera fines issued in Winnipeg, Canada.
Canadian activists are turning to the courts to stop the controversial photo radar program in Winnipeg. On Thursday, the Road Safety Awareness Group filed a claim in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench seeking the refund of $177 million CAD in tickets issued, plus additional damages. The suit names city and provincial officials as well as Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), the Dallas-based contractor that runs the program; its predecessor, Lockheed Martin IMS; and Gatsometer BV, the Dutch company that makes the speed camera equipment.
Rather than focus on legal issues, the suit attempts to expose the unseemly manner in which the photo radar program was approved by the province of Manitoba in 2002 and implemented in Winnipeg the following year. The suit argues that ACS and Lockheed used bogus safety and financial statistics to convince officials to use the company as its sole vendor. The program happened to be quite useful to the companies' other business lines.
"Lockheed and ACS conspired to gain access to and collect private citizens' data through
the operation of the photo radar scheme and/or by processing of traffic act violations," the suit claimed. "Under a separate government services contract, particulars of which are unknown, Lockheed and/or ACS developed and installed a proprietary computer system for court services that controls court registry functions including data processing and electronic storage for the criminal and civil courts and data sharing with the justice department. The former executive director of Manitoba Justice Court Services, Brad Janzen, assisted ACS to implement the new system while employed by the government. Brad Janzen is now employed by ACS as a program manager."
The suit claims that ACS uses this private information to help the company's profitable debt collection services. ACS, for example, has a contract with 24 states to track down delinquent child support payments and the US Department of Education to find students who have failed to pay their loans on time. The group argues that this violates Canada's privacy statutes. In 2006, ACS was charged with bribing police officers in connection with its photo radar contract in Edmonton, although a judge later dismissed the case.
Between 2003 and 2008, Winnipeg's cameras mailed out a total of 886,108 citations worth $177 million.
"The plaintiffs say that they and all other similarly situated Manitoban motorists have been harmed and have suffered real and substantial injury, economic loss and damages arising from the malicious acts, omissions, unlawful and bad faith conduct by the defendants, particularly defendant ACS and defendant Lockheed," the suit concludes. "Further particulars of the bad faith will be provided at trial."
A copy of the lawsuit is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.