By Kaitlyn Speer | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Redflex Traffic Systems is getting the red light in Rockingham County.
Just a little over a month after Watchdog.org reported Redflex said it planned to fix the controversial way it runs its school bus camera operation and violation tickets in the Virginia county, Rockingham County Public Schools decided to table its partnership with the scandal-ridden company.
It was the first school district in Virginia to implement the program, according to Redflex spokesperson Jody Ryan.
Redflex, headquartered in Australia, uses cameras mounted on school buses to capture video and high-resolution images of drivers allegedly passing the school bus illegally when the stop sign arm is extended. Redflex sends that evidence to local law enforcement to review and decide whether the driver violated the law and needs a citation. Redflex prints the citation and mails it to the car’s registered owner.
“As with any new partnership, it is not uncommon to make modifications during the implementation phase,” Ryan said in an email to Watchdog.org.
Redflex lost $2.2 million on its school bus cameras across the country last year,according to its most recent financial report.
Phil Judd, Rockingham County’s transportation supervisor, confirmed to Watchdog.org the school system decided to defer implementation of Redflex’s school bus stop-arm camera program.
“Rockingham County Public Schools completed the pilot program with the stop-arm cameras and now wishes to step back and take a closer look at the program to see what our needs are and where we would like to go from here,” he said.
Judd didn’t reveal any more details about Rockingham’s sudden decision, but there has been public concern over the cameras.
David Briggman, a former police officer on Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, told Watchdog.org last month he was concerned about Redflex’s program when the county started using it in January — mostly because the violations are mailed without any human interaction first and no mandated court date is listed.
Redflex spokesperson Jody Ryan told Watchdog.org last month the company is reviewing its enforcement process, but the company offered little details of what that would entail.
“We are working with our law enforcement, judicial and education partners to ensure the program meets applicable state and municipal standards,” she said.
The school bus camera controversy emerged during the McDonnell administration, after the General Assembly authorized municipalities to adopt ordinances that would allow school districts to contract with vendors to install and operate video-monitoring systems on school buses to capture drivers who illegally pass them.
But Rockingham County doesn’t seem too sure about its ordinance. The board of supervisors recently asked staff to draft a repeal to the measure that allowed school bus cameras to operate in the first place, according to county administrator Joseph Paxton.
“The action to repeal is one option that the board (of supervisors) could take in support of the school board’s action,” Paxton said in an email to Watchdog.org. But he also said the board hasn’t yet voted on the repeal and may consider other options. This would include focusing on improving the current legislation and protecting the intent of the program, “which is to improve children’s safety while boarding and departing a school bus on county roads,” he said.
Pushback in Rockingham County is only the latest trouble for Redflex. The company’s deal in Gwinnett County, Ga., one of the largest school districts in the nation, was also delayed this summer after the company had originally hoped to have cameras installed by Labor Day.
Two years ago, Redflex was involved in a scandal when Aaron Rosenberg, a former executive at the company, said in a civil defamation claim he was made a “scapegoat” to cover up a long-standing practice of providing government officials with lavish gifts and bribes. Redflex fired Rosenberg and sued him in Arizona for damage.
A former Redflex CEO was also indicted last week, according to the Chicago Tribune, on charges she and a city hall manager conspired to rig the red-light camera business.
–Kaitlyn Speer is a freelance writer at Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau and can be reached at [email protected] and @KSpeer11