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City Hall seeks new red-light camera operator to replace troubled vendor

Red light camerRoosevelt Canal | Sun-Times files

Red light camera at Roosevelt and Canal | Sun-Times files

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration on Thursday issued a request-for-proposals to find a new contractor to operate Chicago’s 384 red-light cameras after a scandal disqualified the old vendor.

Last month, Emanuel ordered an independent audit of Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems — and barred the company from competing for the new contract — amid allegations that Redflex showered more free trips than first believed on a former city official who oversaw the contract.

It happened after the company’s internal investigation concluded that Redflex paid to send former city transportation official John Bills to the Super Bowl and other sporting events and allegedly concealed those favors from the city.

Former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman was hired by Redflex to investigate the company’s relationship with Bills as well as Redflex decision to pay Bills’ associate more than $500,000 in commissions.

On Thursday, Emanuel issued the RFP that launches the competition for a Redflex replacement.

It’ll be a five-year contract with the options for renewals totaling six additional years. That’s the potential for an 11-year contract.

Proposals are due back April 16. An evaluation committee comprised of representatives from several city departments — including Transportation and Procurement Services — will then choose a winner.

“The new vendor will assume operations after a full and transparent procurement process is complete,” Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee was quoted as saying in a press release.

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein added, “The red-light camera program is an important enforcement tools that has been effective in reducing the number of dangerous crashes and making our intersections safer.”

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 and 662,046 in 2011.

The mayor’s decision to oust Redflex marked the end of a lucrative relationship that has generated $100 million in revenues for the company and $300 million fines for the city. It also benefited several mayoral allies.

Redflex’s Illinois lobbying team includes Michael J. Kasper, a lawyer who defended Emanuel in efforts to knock him off the mayoral ballot. The firm’s city lobbyists include former Ald. Mark Fary (12th), husband of Rosmarie S. Andolino, Emanuel’s aviation commissioner.

Another Emanuel ally, public affairs consultant Greg Goldner, also has worked for Redflex.

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 light, Chicago’s 384 red-light cameras at 190 intersections quickly became a cash cow for the revenue-strapped city.



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