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Texas: Mayor Has Police Chief Dismiss Camera Ticket Issued To His Employer
Willis, Texas police chief asks for dismissal of red light camera tickets issued to the employer of the mayor.

Leonard Reed and James Nowak
Motorists who receive a red light camera ticket often find themselves in an uphill battle to defend their innocence, in many cases finding they have no chance of appeal. That is not the case for officials in Willis, Texas where the police chief asked American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company in charge of issuing automated traffic tickets, to dismiss a citation mailed to the mayor's employer.

Mayor Leonard Reed is a certified occupational safety specialist at Entergy, the local power company. On February 12, Willis Police Chief James Nowak suddenly became concerned that photo tickets were being issued to Entergy. He insisted the notices be torn up.

"Can you check and see if there is a violation being processed regarding a truck registered to Entergy that may have run a red light around 10 PM while traveling north on US 75 at FM 1097?" Chief Nowak wrote in an email to ATS client support specialist Jodie Morrison. "If so, I need to preempt it being mailed to Entergy and dismiss it. Can you help me with that?"

Within less than an hour, ATS responded, willing to do whatever the chief requested.

"Would this be for a violation captured yesterday?" Morrison replied. "If so, the latest event captured was around 9 pm."

Chief Nowak responded with the license plate of the offending Entergy vehicle, requesting dismissal without bothering to provide any justification for the mayor's firm.

Red light cameras are generating significant controversy in Willis. A sufficient number of residents angered by what they see as a fundamentally unfair program signed a petition to force a public vote on throwing ATS out of town. Despite this, the mayor and council refused to acknowledge the opposition and renewed the photo ticketing contract earlier this month.

It is not clear from emails obtained from the city whether Chief Nowak was acting directly on Reed's behalf, but police chiefs in Texas serve at the pleasure of the mayor and city council. In College Station, the former police chief found himself in the unemployment line after he told the city council he thought the red light cameras were there to "bilk money" from citizens and that "the revenue generating aspect of the program was a scam to make money, and an 'under the table' tax to avoid raising taxes." Two years later, the city's residents sided with the chief in voting to ban red light cameras.

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