Red-light camera vendor chosen by Chicago dumped by Baltimore
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter August 14, 2013 11:02AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to turn the page from the $2 million bribery scandal plaguing Chicago’s decade-old red-light camera program. But, he can’t manage to do it without at least some controversy.
Xerox State & Local Solutions, Inc., a selection committee’s choice to replace scandal-scarred Redflex Traffic Solutions, lost its speed camera contract in Baltimore after equipment problems prompted thousands of tickets to be issued by mistake.
Earlier this year, Baltimore was forced to throw out more than 6,000 tickets generated by speed and red-light cameras—and forfeit more than $300,000 in fines–after Xerox stopped showing up in court to defend them.
Despite those problems, a seven-member evaluation committee with representatives from several city departments chose Xerox over three other finalists for the red-light camera contract. Negotiations with the company will now begin to determine the length and terms of the contract.
The decision was based on the fact that Xerox had the highest technical score, the “most detailed transition plan” and the fact that it plans to “re-purpose to the greatest extent possible” Redflex-installed equipment owned by the city and “replace all existing electronics with non-intrusive detection” in the shortest time-frame, City Hall said.
As for the ticketing controversy that cost Xerox its Baltimore contract, the company has long contended that 99 percent of the tickets it issued were accurate. The Emanuel administration essentially calls it much ado about nothing.
“The evaluation committee checked references as part of its thorough review process, and contacted Baltimore officials about Xerox, which successfully conducts business with many municipalities. Neither Baltimore nor any other municipality has debarred or declared Xerox ineligible to contract for city business,” city spokesman Bill McCaffrey wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Emanuel dumped Arizona-based Redflex after the company’s own investigation showed it paid for numerous trips for a former city official charged with overseeing the program and concealed that information from the city.
But, the Redflex contract has been extended twice to make certain the city can sever the relationship for good.
Earlier this year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded there is no evidence to substantiate the city’s claim that red-light cameras have either reduced accidents or are installed at the most dangerous intersections.
Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Chicago Department of Transportation claimed to have chosen intersections with the highest number of “angle crashes” caused by red-light running to pump out $100 tickets that now generate $72 million in annual revenues.
But Ferguson said CDOT was unable to produce evidence that accident data was used in the selection of red-light camera locations or that CDOT continually evaluates accident data to relocate cameras to the most-dangerous spots.
In fact, in the decade since the program began, Ferguson noted that only 10 cameras at five intersections have been moved. Chicago has 384 red-light cameras at 190 intersections.
Ferguson had no comment about the city’s selection of Xerox.
Going forward, the IG has recommended that the city establish rigid criteria for locating red-light cameras, follow that criteria to the letter and maintain records to monitor the program.
Red-light cameras were gradually installed at accident-prone Chicago intersections, beginning in 2003. The cameras pumped out a high of 791,111 tickets in 2009, before dropping in recent years to 763,419 in 2010, 662,046 in 2011 and 612,278 last year.
When red-light cameras were first installed, City Hall billed it as a safety measure, just as Emanuel is now touting speed cameras.
But with $100 fines for every motorist who blows through a red lights, Chicago’s 384 red-light cameras at 190 intersections quickly became a cash cow for the revenue-strapped city.
Xerox was the runner-up for the Chicago speed camera contract after assembling a clout-heavy team that includes Democratic strategist Kevin Conlon, who founded his firm with former Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm. Conlon has done campaign work for President Obama.
Also assisting Xerox in Chicago was ASGK Public Strategies, a firm founded by David Axelrod, the mayor’s friend of 30 years who worked together with Emanuel in the Obama White House.