Driver Sues For Towns To End Secrecy Surrounding Speed Camera Data; Private Contractor

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The leader of a motorist advocacy group in Maryland is suing two municipalities for failing to provide information about how they authorized a speed limit change on a local road, and then hired a private company to operate a speed camera and collect ticket revenue from drivers.

“An agency which places cameras on every street corner shouldn’t be allowed to break the law in order to keep secrets,” Ron Ely, the head of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, told automotive policy website TheNewspaper. “However, this really isn’t about speed cameras. If local governments can conceal potentially embarrassing information from the public on this issue, then what else will they be allowed to hide?”

Ely filed the lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md. Circuit Court last week, asking the court only to declare that the speed cam data falls within the realm of municipal documents that must be kept on file as a matter of public record, as established by the Maryland Public Information Act. The suit also seeks a $1,000 fine for Brentwood officials who have so far stonewalled Ely’s original request, which originally was filed in October of 2010.

From the report:

The town [of Brentwood] eventually responded in June 2012, demanding that Ely pay a schedule of fees for the involvement of various town employees, including $200 an hour for the town attorney. The total cost to access the documents was left open-ended. Ely considered this response a constructive denial of his request.

…In Morningside, Ely is not seeking obscure or difficult to obtain records. Instead, he wants the calibration certificates and daily setup logs that must be “kept on file” under the state’s speed camera authorization statute. Already, two localities have been caught violating state law in allowing a private company to operate cameras without documenting the calibrations, as required.

Ely filed the request on June 5, but it failed to respond within thirty days, as required under the public records statute. After calling the town, Ely finally received an email from the town attorney on July 25 neither granting nor denying the request.

“Please be advised that the town of Morningside is not the speed monitoring system operator as that term is defined in the Maryland Annotated Code, and therefore, the town of Morningside does not maintain the records and documents pursuant to your request,” Morningside town attorney Todd K. Pounds wrote on August 5.

What Pounds means by that last statement is that the town of Morningside has handed enforcement, along with revenue collections, over to a private company that operates the speed camera. Brekford, the company that installs and maintains the equipment, gets 40 percent of every speeding ticket fine.

 

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.