City Ousts Redflex As Bidder For Red-Light Camera Contract

By Mike Brockway on February 8, 2013 6:47pm 

 One of Chicago's nearly 400 red light cameras stands watch at the corner of Damen and Division in the Wicker Park neighborhood.
One of Chicago's nearly 400 red light cameras stands watch at the corner of Damen and Division in the Wicker Park neighborhood.
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Mike Brockway

CHICAGO — After new revelations of impropriety surfaced late Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved swiftly and banned Redflex Traffic Systems, the current holder of Chicago's red-light camera contract, from bidding on the new, soon-to-be-released contract.

The Phoenix-based provider of automated traffic enforcement technology came under scrutiny when a Chicago Tribune article this fall revealed a company representative had improperly paid for luxury hotel accommodations for former Chicago Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John Bills, who oversaw the city's RLC program.

At that time, the city took the punitive step of preventing Redflex from bidding on the city's nascent speed camera enforcement program then and referred the matter to the Inspector General's Office. It subsequently extended Redflex's contract, which expired January 31st, to allow the IGO to complete it's investigation and allow the company to still bid - at least until today.

"As you know, immediately upon learning of impropriety by Redflex, the Mayor took action and declared the company to be a non-responsible bidder on future city work and referred the matter to the inspector general," said mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton. "Given these more serious allegations, we are declaring Redflex not responsible to bid on the new red light RFP when it is issued."

At the time, the company admitted the problem but claimed in was an isolated incident.

But further revelations reported by the Tribune late Thursday seem to show a larger pattern of impropriety. The Tribune story says an independent audit of Redflex’s business dealings in Chicago reveal company officials spent thousands of dollars entertaining Bills with trips to the Super Bowl and other sporting events.

This has forced the resignation of several top company officials, and caused the halt of stock trading of Redflex’s parent company Redflex Holding, on the Australian stock exchange.

Redflex Holding's Global CEO Robert DeVincenzi issued a statement on Thursday addressing the newest allegations.

"One month after I became CEO of Redflex Holdings last September, we engaged Sidley Austin to conduct an investigation into issues brought to light by a whistleblower and articles in the Chicago Tribune," explained DeVincenzi in a statement. "We gave Sidley unfettered access to our people and our records and directed that its inquiry run without limitations. Although the investigation is not over, we learned that some Redflex employees did not meet our own code of conduct and the standards that the people of the City of Chicago deserve."

John Bowman, spokesman for the National Motorists Association, a group that opposes this type of automated camera enforcement is not surprised by the story.

"The actions of Redflex and the city officials involved reflect the general nature of the photo enforcement business," said Bowman. "Unfortunately public trust and public safety often fall by the wayside when there's so much money and influence at stake."

The city is hiring an outside firm to audit Redflex and perhaps pursue legal actions against the company according to Hamilton.

"The City is also engaging an independent firm immediately to audit the Redflex contract for all past and ongoing activities to ensure Chicago taxpayers are not cheated in any way," said Hamilton. "If there are any findings of illegal conduct or improprieties that show Chicago taxpayers were defrauded, the City will seek penalties to the fullest extent of the law."

DeVincenzi said in his statement the company is cooperating with law enforcement.

"We are sharing information with law enforcement authorities, will take corrective action and I will do everything in my power to regain the trust of the Chicago community," said DeVincenzi."

Redflex has been the city's red-light camera vendor since the program's inception in 2003 - a program that has grown to become the nation's largest with 384 cameras dotting the city at 191 intersections and has generated more than $330 million.

Redflex's Chicago contract is its single largest contract and has generated more than $100 million in revenue for the company.

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