Winter Park may already have a strong case to quash a lawsuit over how the city implements its red-light camera program.
City Commissioners were made aware of a statewide red-light camera lawsuit during their meeting back on March 9, less than a month after they voted to extend the city’s contract with Gatso USA Inc. for the next three years during their Feb. 23 City Commission meeting.
The suit claims that Winter Park and 30 other municipalities rely on the vendor to determine whether a potential red light camera violation merits a review from a traffic infraction enforcement officer (TIEO), rather than police agencies making that call.
“The Vendor Defendants unlawfully conduct and control almost the entire issuance and enforcement process for red-light camera violations and make determinations which, under Florida law, are only to be performed by a TIEO,” the lawsuit reads.
But City Attorney Larry Brown told the City Commission during its meeting on Monday that he’d be filing a motion to quash a lawsuit from a South Florida plaintiff due to “a lack of personal jurisdiction.”
“In the complaint, they admit that they don’t have a named plaintiff who was cited in Winter Park,” Brown said. “They’re merely suing the city because the city has a contract with Gatso. We don’t think that’s enough.”
“For most of the cities, they actually have someone as a named plaintiff who was cited in the city…. They couldn’t find someone who was upset and got cited in Winter Park.”
Brown added that other municipalities are much quicker to cite residents with the red-light camera programs.
“I personally think Winter Park administers the program in a fairly conservative way,” Brown said. “We’re not real aggressive.”
Today Winter Park has six intersections monitored by red-light cameras, including the intersections of Aloma and Lakemont avenues and U.S. Highway 17-92 and Orange Avenue.
A recent study conducted by former Florida Highway Patrol officer Paul Henry claims that crashes caused by running red lights haven’t decreased since the cameras were put in place back in early 2011 – they’ve increased.
Henry said that data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows that Winter Park has seen 31 red light violation crashes from January 2011 to December 2013.
There were only 15 red light violation crashes during the three years prior to installing the cameras, Henry said.
“Note there were very few (15) such crashes worked by your police department for the 36-month period…indicating your city did not have a red light violation crash problem,” wrote Paul Henry in an email to the Winter Park City Commission.
The statewide lawsuit was filed against the city of Maitland as well. Maitland renewed its own agreement with Gatso USA last December.
“[The cameras] are effective because people are aware they’re being watched; they’re being more careful,” Maitland Deputy Police Chief Bill McEachnie said. “You’d get the same result if you put a police car there, but that car would have to be there 24/7.”
The lawsuit lists two aggrieved parties who were cited in Maitland.