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Louisiana: Jefferson Parish To Refund Red Light Camera Tickets
Scandals move Jefferson Parish, Louisiana to refund all Redflex red light camera tickets.

Sheriff Newell Normand
Officials in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana are moving forward on plans to refund $4.7 million in red light camera tickets. Council Chairman Chris L. Roberts put forward the motion on March 13 to put an end to "a long chapter of questionable dealings" with Redflex, the Australian company that issued the tickets. On Wednesday, Sheriff Newell Normand said he would follow the council's lead on the issue.

"It doesn't move me one way or the other," Normand told the council. "Whatever the parish decides to do, I will join with the council and the administration relative to those issues if you so desire to enter into a rebate program... I would go along with whatever your desire is."

Sheriff Normand clarified that the red light camera program began under his predecessor and that he would not be directly involved in any refunds.

"The sheriff's office is simply the collector," Normand explained. "We do not hold any of the information as to the recipients of the tickets and therefore not in a position to be able to rebate. That would really fall on the parish, and the parish holds those records in the parish courts."

About 284,000 tickets were issued in the program until it was suspended over ethical concerns on January 27, 2010 -- long before the Chicago scandal broke. In light of the early revelations of impropriety, a third of recipients threw their photo tickets in the garbage.

"To my knowledge, Redflex has taken no action or made any attempts to collect on the approximately 100,000 violations that were issued but not paid," a parish attorney's office spokesman said. "Since this action began in early 2008 until today, there hasn't been any attempt to collect those fines."

The situation seemed so unbalanced that the council unanimously approved the refunds.

"It draws into question whether the basis for this program was established in a fair and legal way," Roberts said. "I have hard time keeping money from those that did reply when we know that many others just ignored it and nothing was done about it. Then we find out the firm that was in the middle of this potentially could make millions and is paying consultants a percentage of tickets that were issued."

Redflex had paid a 3.2 percent cut of the firm's profit on each ticket issued to lobbyist Bryan Wagner, a former New Orleans city councilman, who in turn shared the funds with the wife of District Judge Robert Murphy. Roberts expects a long legal process before any checks can be mailed to those who paid a red light camera ticket.

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