5/31/2013Speed Cameras Tear Apart Ohio Town
Elmwood Place, Ohio council resigns in advance of a court contempt hearing over the use of speed cameras.
The village of Elmwood Place, Ohio can no longer perform all the functions of local government, thanks to speed cameras. Four of the village's six councilmen have resigned over the way automated ticketing machines are used, and without a quorum village can no longer take any actions it faces a court contempt hearing on Tuesday.
The controversy began in September 2012 when the village allowed Optotraffic to begin issuing $105 tickets using a portable speed camera with a 40 percent cut of the revenue going to the private company. Tickets were being issued at a rate that would have generated $2 million per year, or over $1000 per resident.
"Businesses have lost customers who now refuse to drive through Elmwood," Judge Robert P. Ruehlman explained in a March ruling. "Churches have lost members who are frightened to come to Elmwood and individuals who have received notices were harmed because they were unable to defend themselves against the charges brought against them."
The Hamilton County Common Pleas court judge cited the "total disregard for due process" in the way the village operated the program without offering motorists a legally fair method of contesting the citation (view ruling). The judge expected the city to shut down its ticketing operation, but it refused to do so. Attorney Michael K. Allen filed a motion for contempt to force the issue.
Earlier this month, the village took the extraordinary step of retaliating against Judge Ruehlman by petitioning the Ohio Supreme Court to disqualify him from the speed camera case. The village attorney argued the colorful language of the decision demonstrated prejudice against automated ticketing machines.
"In his actual written 6-page opinion granting plaintiff's motion, Judge Ruehlman used extremely pejorative and unnecessary language directed at Elmwood Place and Chief Peskin, e.g. 'sham,' 'game,' 'nothing more than a high-tech game of 3 card monty,' 'scam,' 'entire case against the motorist is stacked' and 'Elmwood Place has another scheme up its sleeve,'" Elmwood Place attorney Judd R. Uhl wrote in the petition to the high court.
Uhl explained that the damage to the village from the decision was substantial.
"This represents potential lost revenues to Elmwood Place of almost $325,000 per month," Uhl wrote. "Elmwood Place has a population of approximately 2200 residents. Nevertheless, Judge Ruehlman ignored the clear and substantial harm to Elmwood Place that would be caused by the injunction."