7/14/2020Arizona Town Accused Of Illegal Red Light Camera Meeting
Complaint filed with the Arizona attorney general accuses Fountain Hills of working illegally behind the scenes to install red light cameras.
A complaint filed Friday with Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich accused the town of Fountain Hills of violating the state's open meeting law to advance the installation of red light cameras. Several of the town's council members, including the mayor, discussed what it might take to bring cameras into the town, according to records obtained under a freedom of information request. The complaint filed by Arizona Campaign for Liberty Director Shawn Dow cited a 2005 attorney general ruling that stated such contact was not permitted.
"Mayor Dickey -- knowing these cameras were going to cost this town millions in lawsuits -- is willing to break the law to sneak them in while everyone is on lockdown," Dow told TheNewspaper. "She is trying to use these cameras to cover her inept budgeting skills -- she lost the tax increase, so she is trying to punish us with unconstitutional cameras."
Under state law, members of a public body cannot conduct an email exchange involving a "quorum" of members regarding matters that might come before the council. Mayor Ginny Dickey, vice mayor Mike Scharnow, councilman Sherry Leckrone and councilman Dennis Brown emailed comments to one another on the subject in a series of separate emails. Four of the council's seven members constitute a quorum.
"I'd like to keep cameras on our 'radar' (get it?)," mayor Dickey wrote in a November 25, 2019, to Brown.
Another email chain was triggered when Fountain Hills Times reporter Bob Burns asked on July 7 about signs that had appeared in the community opposing red light cameras. Burns asked whether the city was being lobbied by red light camera vendors. Mayor Dickey asked if Burns could "check on" who was funding anti-camera signs that had appeared throughout the town.
The town council on August 24 will take a final vote approving the use of cameras that tickets people making slow, right-turns on red. US Department of Transportation statistics show that such turns rarely cause accidents (view report). Proponents of right turn cameras say the devices "save lives" of pedestrians and cyclists, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluded otherwise.
"The majority of fatalities [for cyclists and pedestrians] did not occur at or near intersections," the report explained.
An average motorist could drive a billion miles -- the distance from Earth to Jupiter and back -- before being involved in an accident that resulted from a motorist making a rolling stop on a right-hand turn. A rolling right turn study in California came to the same conclusion (view report).
The lobbying efforts of the photo enforcement industry has resulted in felony bribery convictions for over a dozen automated ticketing executives and public officials (view list), several of whom were based in Arizona.