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Company behind Jacksonville's red-light cameras accused of bribing officials in Florida, 12 other states

Posted: January 29, 2014 - 1:36pm  |  Updated: January 30, 2014 - 3:44pm
The intersection of Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard is among those that have red light cameras in Jacksonville. It was chosen because it was ranked as one of the city's most dangerous in 2011.  Will.Dickey@Jacksonville.com
Will.Dickey@Jacksonville.com
The intersection of Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard is among those that have red light cameras in Jacksonville. It was chosen because it was ranked as one of the city's most dangerous in 2011.

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The company overseeing Jacksonville’s red-light cameras has been accused by one of its former executives of giving “gifts and bribes” to government officials in 13 states, including Florida.

RedFlex Traffic Systems, the Arizona-based firm that installed and monitors cameras at 25 intersections in Jacksonville, has been mired in controversy surrounding a $100 million contract it had with the city of Chicago, which has since fired the company. Company officials admitted last year that the contract, one of the largest in the country, was likely the result of a $2 million bribery scheme involving a former Chicago city official who oversaw the red-light camera program, according to the Chicago Tribune.

BY THE NUMBERS: Where most red-light violations occur

Now, Aaron Rosenberg, RedFlex’s former top salesman who was fired and sued by the company in the wake of the scandal, has shot back at the company with a counter lawsuit, alleging the company routinely gave gifts and bribes to government officials in attempt to steer contracts. The lawsuit did not elaborate on the bribery accusations, and nobody involved in the controversy has been charged with a crime. Rosenberg’s lawyer has said his client is cooperating with a federal investigation, according to the Chicago Tribune.

MAP: Where the red light cameras are

RedFlex denied Rosenberg’s allegations in a written statement Thursday and vowed to “aggressively defend itself.”

Rosenberg’s lawsuit also mentioned how RedFlex courted Florida government officials with a steak house dinner in Jacksonville. RedFlex invited about 15 council members and their spouses from around the state, including Jacksonville, to dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse in August 2006, according to a series of e-mails included in the countersuit. The dinner cost $3,230.

RELATED: See our traffic page for the latest road conditions, construction and traffic cams

The e-mails do not include the names of who attended the dinner, so it’s not clear if anyone from Jacksonville accepted the invitation. But RedFlex employees discussed in the e-mails how the dinner helped gain the attention of the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office, which would years later pick RedFlex to administer its red-light camera program.

In one e-mail, a RedFlex employee said a meeting with “Jacksonville police and engineering which resulted in the request of a proposal” was a “direct result of the function.” A follow-up breakfast was also scheduled with the “Jacksonville Sheriff, Engineering and County administrator” in December 2006, according to the e-mails.

There isn’t a county administrator position.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith said Tuesday in a written statement that Sheriff John Rutherford didn’t recall attending any dinners or breakfast meetings with RedFlex, as mentioned in the lawsuit. Smith also denied that a request for proposal was issued as a result of meetings with RedFlex in 2006.

“The actual award of the contract did not occur until five years later, in 2011, and was the result of a full and open RFP [request for proposal], conforming precisely to the requirements of Florida law and the City of Jacksonville procurement code,” Smith said in her statement.

The city’s interest in red-light cameras dates back to 2007, when the City Council passed a law calling for their installation. However, Florida law did not allow red-light cameras, and the city held off implementing the cameras until the state Legislature passed a law allowing them in 2010.

The city of Jacksonville, along with two companies that unsuccessfully competed for the city’s red-light camera contract, hired lobbyists while lawmakers considered the bill, state records show. American Traffic Systems began lobbying the legislature in 2007, and Xerox Inc., which owns a red-light camera subsidiary company, hired a lobbyist in 2010. One of American Traffic Systems’ lobbyists, Southern Strategy Group, also lobbied for the city of Jacksonville.

RedFlex also hired a lobbyist, but it wasn’t until July 2010, a few months after the governor signed the law allowing red light cameras. That lobbying firm, Tidewater Consulting, was also lobbying at the time for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Edward Blakely, who was employed by Tidewater at the time, has served as Sheriff John Rutherford’s campaign manager.

Rutherford was an early advocate of the red-light camera program, and the Sheriff’s Office had an instrumental role in choosing which company received the contract.

Blakely did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Council president Bill Gulliford said he would have liked to have known the two entities employed the same lobbyist when he approved the red-light camera contract. He said he doesn’t think the information would have changed the way he voted, but it may have led him or other council members to ask more questions.

“In this day and time, I think, frankly, you should go overboard in the other way as to not give any inkling or picture of anything that could remotely be called impropriety,” Gulliford said.

RedFlex ultimately won a $7.7 million contract with the city and has installed cameras at 25 intersections since 2012. The company will install four more cameras by the end of this month.

Christopher Hong: (904) 359-4272

Comments (27)

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jaxguy111
3095
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jaxguy111 01/29/14 - 01:49 pm
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0
Premium Member

This is a surprise. Didn't

This is a surprise. Didn't see that coming.

it's never about the truth
1105
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it's never about the truth 01/29/14 - 02:20 pm
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0
Premium Member

Gee - same consultant -

Gee - same consultant - served as campaign manager for the Sheriff and there is no conflict of interest there? In years gone by, this whole bunch would have been under arrest under Grand Jury warrants - shame we have gotten to this in our once fine City.....

johnctaughtme
12967
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johnctaughtme 01/29/14 - 03:38 pm
0
0

It is well past time for a

It is well past time for a Grand Jury, but citizens keep letting themselves get distracted by the same old stories. This is yet another example of the problems with so-called "public/private partnerships", when they come down to government and law-enforcement for profit.

Mockingjay
1325
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Mockingjay 01/29/14 - 04:33 pm
0
0
Premium Member

Unfortunately this kind of

Unfortunately this kind of behavior seems to be the norm with many of the elected. Government officials look out for each other leaving the average man and woman practically helpless against all odds.

This reminds me of SMG and their way with the city until a whistleblower told the whole story to a council member that would fianlly do something with the information and an audit was called finally to prove the tax payers were indeed being scammed.

It takes someone with knowledge and guts to make backroom deals known.

Plus anyone should really know that government Rep's have a way writing RFP's so ultimately only one company will actually qualify to do the job.

Good thing Sheriff Rutherford hasnt paid his entrance fee for the Mayors election yet. Im pretty sure we're all familiar with the statement "I dont recall" being used by government officials.

lilrio
4977
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lilrio 01/29/14 - 05:32 pm
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0
Premium Member

It seems to me where ever

It seems to me where ever there is a red light camera the timing from yellow light to red seems much shorter. Has anyone else noticed this?

johnctaughtme
12967
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johnctaughtme 01/29/14 - 06:05 pm
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0
Premium Member

Yes "lilrio", I have, though

Yes "lilrio", I have, though law-enforcement and the cities and counties which have had these things installed vehemently deny that.

bigeasyz
2240
Points
bigeasyz 01/29/14 - 06:17 pm
0
0

Looky Looky !! It's all about

Looky Looky !! It's all about safety not the money they said..Our city officials are just like Obama...LIARS.....smh

The Enquirer
2853
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The Enquirer 01/29/14 - 07:36 pm
0
0

This whole mess makes me want

This whole mess makes me want to vommit. The whole red light camera issue from the beginning is nothing more than a money making scandel for all invovlved except for us poor citizens who are stuck paying the bill for all these fat cats. From the beginning they sold us a bag a garbage saying it was all about safety, when I knew it was all about the mighty dollar. I wonder how many are raking in the dough on this scam? Just wait until they stop making money when everyone stops running the red lights and they take them down as fast as they put them up. I can't wait.

Gadfly
6803
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Gadfly 01/29/14 - 08:33 pm
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0

Once again wouldn't it be

Once again wouldn't it be neat if the T-U investigated to see if the rich and powerful in Jacksonville are getting red light tickets like the rest of us or if the data base just some how forgot to add their license plate numbers into the system along with the great unwashed.

But that would be what they called in the old days, investigative journalism.

Not going to happen.

Bugleboy
835
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Bugleboy 01/29/14 - 11:41 pm
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0
Premium Member

Not to be Captain Obvious

Not to be Captain Obvious here, but if people would just stop at red lights, we wouldn't have red light cameras. There is much money to be made from people who can't spare a minute or two from their busy lives. A friend told me that a red light ticket in Green Cove Springs is a $250 fine.

Grendel53
502
Points
Grendel53 01/30/14 - 12:28 am
0
0

That's correct, Bb. Obey the

That's correct, Bb. Obey the law. BUT red light cameras are just another prime example of the all invasive State looking for more revenue streams. Then add in the Morton's dinners, pay to play, rigged proposals and viola, everyone's liberty zone gets another trimming.
I so sick of these disingenuous hack politicians ignoring the Bill Of Rights/Constitution Amendment VI: "...to be confronted with the witnesses against him...". Sorry, a photo is not a "witness". I can't believe these things are LEGAL.
At least some mid western state got smacked down for civil forfeiting a stripper's million dollars during a traffic stop AND granted her legal fees as well. Oh yeah, the state ret the million and 1,000$ "interest"....hmm, just a savings account on a mill should have netted her 30,000$. Chick's atty said they'd let that little bit of fiscal legerdermain slide.

Cowford Express
1494
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Cowford Express 01/30/14 - 12:50 am
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0
Premium Member

Morton's Steak house????

Morton's Steak house???? Really???

Everyone knows our council members prefer to be bought with Ruth Chris.

north miami
2714
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north miami 01/30/14 - 06:23 am
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0
Premium Member

"If people would just stop

"If people would just stop running red lights,we wouldn't have a problem"

avatar
1811
Points
avatar 01/30/14 - 08:10 am
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0
Premium Member

Lilrio: It's not your

Lilrio: It's not your imagination.

The yellow light timings at intersections with cameras have been shortened by the FDOT, to below those recommended by the USDOT.

The short yellows and higher ticket fines make for a windfall of money to both the private camera provider and the local govt.

I predict they won't be going away anytime soon. Maybe it's time to start taking citizen action against the camera installations themselves like UK citizens do.

ratter
3170
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ratter 01/30/14 - 08:15 am
0
0
Premium Member

What I have noticed at red

What I have noticed at red lights thst are monitored, is that people are flooring the pedal to get through them.
Even if say, an ambulance is approaching....or that little timer on the crosswalk gets to 10 or less.
I wouldnt be surprised if data shows MORE accidents are occuring at camera intersections.

bigeasyz
2240
Points
bigeasyz 01/30/14 - 08:28 am
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0

Have you ever notice that the

Have you ever notice that the red light cameras are only in the well to do areas??

How come there is none in the hood???

Can anybody say PROFILING???

jaxguss
34
Points
jaxguss 01/30/14 - 09:07 am
0
0
Premium Member

Southside and Atlantic are a

Southside and Atlantic are a real well to area bigeasyz. If you do a little home work you will discover they are in the most dangerous intersections.

I hate them just as bad and hated paying the 2 i got, but i do pay better attention at those intersections now.

Last figures i saw in the paper shocked me how much money is being taken from us.

Maybe the mayor should put that in the retirement fund and make jea cut our bills.

lilrio
4977
Points
lilrio 01/30/14 - 10:23 am
0
0
Premium Member

All lights should be set the

All lights should be set the same. If they are making the cycle shorter at camera locations that just seems wrong. I have noticed myself either having to slam on brakes or punch gas at red light locations because of the shorter cycle between yellow and red. There seems to be more time to stop at locations where there is not a camera between the yellow to red cycles. If these shorter cycles are being done to generate more revenue than maybe a class action lawsuit needs to be done and funds returned to the drivers.

saltmarsh cracker
3796
Points
saltmarsh cracker 01/30/14 - 11:50 am
0
0

Are data available to show if

Are data available to show if people ticketed by red light cameras become repeat offenders?

I wonder how many of the offenders are first time offenders?

I like red-light cameras.

I do not like people running red lights absent an emergency.

When emergency vehicles run red lights, are they ticketed?

Is a ticket created for a bicyclist?

GrumpierOldMan
2098
Points
GrumpierOldMan 01/30/14 - 11:24 am
0
0

The whole concept of having a

The whole concept of having a private company assessing and collecting fines is WRONG on so many levels.

These red-light-camera companies have always been sneaky and underhanded, from getting the contracts, to increasing violation rates with timing changes, to having a "sworn officer" whose only job to to sign off on the photos in an effort to make it look legal, to issuing tickets NOT TO THE DRIVER but to the OWNER of the car. It's all just a crock.

That these amoral companies would pay off greedy politicians and bureaucrats should surprise no one.

1000m
2248
Points
1000m 01/30/14 - 11:42 am
0
0
Premium Member

If you're on the "just don't

If you're on the "just don't run red lights" boat, you're being a touch naieve.

When there is a monetary reward for in increase in light runners, it's not difficult to configure the intersection to increase the runners($$$). If I'm approaching an intersection @ 45, and the light goes yellow when I'm within 30 feet of the intersection but red before I've cleared the intersection....I don't have much of a chance.

This isn't a case of catching the clowns who see the red light and floor it (should be ticketed, perferrably by an officer), this is a case of people getting caught in no man's land due to shortened yellow times.

MyaPinion
1001
Points
MyaPinion 01/30/14 - 11:53 am
0
0
Premium Member

Two things - I agree on the

Two things - I agree on the sudden change from yellow to red. Wondering does this effect if your half way through a yellow light that all of a sudden turns red?

Confuscious says: If Crime Rate down but need more officers.....and now robotic cameras to ticket you......why more officers? Whats an officer to do? Lol!

Free country my a** - anything to earn extra bucks. Why should just one company get 100M contract whatever happened to divide n conquor share n share alike.

johnctaughtme
12967
Points
johnctaughtme 01/30/14 - 02:04 pm
0
0

For-profit law enforcement,

For-profit law enforcement, including jails and prisons should worry anybody who is concerned about freedom and constitutional and procedural protections and rights. People who enforce the law, including issuing citations or any other form of making charges, should be answerable only and directly to elected officials and indirectly to citizens. So should their loyalty and duty be primarily to citizens, not some transient company which employs them.

tabman
2838
Points
tabman 01/30/14 - 03:49 pm
0
0

Just for a steak. Can you

Just for a steak. Can you imagine what they'd do for vendor if it included breakfast the next morning?

Ib4jax
142
Points
Ib4jax 01/30/14 - 08:09 pm
0
0
Premium Member

These red light cameras

These red light cameras aren't going anywhere UNLESS the law is changed in Tallahassee. The yelllow and red light timing is exactly the same at every intersection. The only difference is at priority intersections the green light may last longer. The only ones whining about cameras are people who have received a ticket, know their reckless and will probably receive a ticket or a relative received a ticket. Slow down and STOP at these intersections in accordance with the law and you will have nothing to worry about.

Mockingjay
1325
Points
Mockingjay 01/31/14 - 07:09 am
0
0
Premium Member

From what I saw and heard

From what I saw and heard there are quite a few legislators none too happy about the repercussions of the red light cameras.

Senator Bean and Representative Lake Ray are trying to make changes to the law and there is a Bill for the spring session to get them removed BUT there will be no change IF The People do not strongly encourage them make it happen

MyaPinion
1001
Points
MyaPinion 01/31/14 - 09:45 am
0
0
Premium Member

Safedriver for almost 40yrs.

Safedriver for almost 40yrs. Yesterday, while arriving at an intersection in a flash with no time to stop at the start/stop line the light goes from green to yellow - halfway through the light immediately turns to red.

I guess if we all put our own dash cameras in then we may have a leg to stand on and fight - enough of us may make a class action lawsuit for a portion of that 100million $$$$$ that contractor was paid.- LoL!

Heck why not there are attorneys for everything else ;)

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