12/28/2011Illinois: Local Official Charged with Traffic Camera Corruption
The village of Bellwood, Illinois claims its former comptroller signed a red light camera contract for personal financial gain.
A former village manager accused last week of corruption as part of a scandal that included the signing of a lucrative red light camera contract. Bellwood, Illinois filed the complaint in Cook County circuit court accusing Roy F. McCampbell of running village finances into the ground as he had control of the budget between 2005 and 2009 as comptroller, public safety director and corporation counsel. He was paid more than $1.5 million over this period, ending 2009 with a salary of $449,312.
"Defendant acted with reckless disregard for the rights and interests of the village in the performance of his duties while a village employee," the sworn complaint stated. "As a result of his willful, wanton, and/or reckless conduct, the village suffered economic and non-economic damages."
Among McCampbell's highest-profile projects in office was the installation of red light cameras. McCampbell touted the program to colleagues in the Illinois Municipal League in 2007, urging them to follow his lead. He explained such systems deliver a major monetary payoff for localities when properly managed.
"Probably our best producing intersection, which is a little bit like a lotto or casino type of operation, has been an intersection where we have the right turn on red light," McCampbell explained. "We're probably running 40 or 45 percent of the tickets at that intersection are right turn on red."
McCampbell explained that other towns, like Elmwood Park, made the mistake of locating their red light cameras in the middle of town, ensuring that up to 90 percent of the tickets went to local residents. McCampbell did not make that mistake.
"We get everybody from Naperville, Downers Grove, Oswego, Aurora," a gleeful McCampbell explained. "It's interesting because that intersection is a guaranteed amount of money. We installed that and we're seeing $60,000 to $70,000 a month based on one direction there. That's pretty amazing. Everyone told me we'd be slacking off on the revenue on that light, and it just keeps popping."
McCampbell did not disclose any financial interest in Redspeed when he recommended the Israeli company for the highly lucrative contract. Bellwood was vital as the first US jurisdiction to sign up with the foreign-based automated ticketing firm.
"Ultimately, the contract with Redspeed was not in the best interests of the village," the complaint stated.
McCampbell also played a key role in convincing the state legislature to authorize red light cameras. Redspeed handsomely rewarded those who helped advance its interests in Illinois. The Bellwood First Party, which McCampbell supported, received $5230 in donations from the company and its lobbyists. State lawmakers who backed the authorizing bill received tens of thousands more.
The village insists McCampbell's mismanagement was the primary cause of the village's currebt debt situation. It seeks $1.5 million in compensation.