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OR: Red-light company accused of bribery holds contracts in Oregon

By   /   November 21, 2012  /   1 Comment

REDFLEX: A red light for Oregon?

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

PORTLAND — The company holding contracts with local governments in Oregon for red-light cameras is the same large, Arizona-based business that came under fire in Chicago last month for alleged ethics violations, including bribery.

Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. has contracts with nine of the 10  municipalities in Oregon that use red-light or speed cameras, according to the company and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The controversial cameras catch motorists illegally running red lights, and drivers are sent a ticket. In most cases, Redflex takes a percentage of ticket revenue in exchange for managing the cameras.

Government officials contacted by Northwest Watchdog were unaware of the controversy in Chicago and expressed little concern about the company’s dealings in Oregon.

The city of Chicago recently barred Redflex from its red-light camera expansion program, calling the company a non-responsible bidder, according to city documents. The city shunned the company after it failed, for two years, to report an alleged ethics violation, which became the subject of a Chicago Tribune investigation last month. The newspaper found a consultant for the company paid a $910 luxury hotel tab for a city official who oversaw the company’s existing contract. The company’s current contracts are also being considered in breach, and the city’s inspector general could conduct an independent investigation.

“We take our commitment to serving the public very seriously and do not condone unprofessional actions or instances of unethical behavior,” Redflex Director of Communications Jody Ryan said in an email. “We intend to take whatever actions necessary to further ensure the integrity of our programs and products.”

Redflex holds the majority of red-light and speed camera contracts with local governments in Oregon, with the exception of Portland and Milwaukie, which contract with ACS State and Local Solutions.

Jeff Groth, Sherwood police chief, said the city, which has contracted with Redflex for its red-light camera program since 2009, has had nothing but a positive experience with Redflex.

“It’s really a situation where it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we have a solid contract,” he said. “It’s something we’re always paying attention to.”

Oregonians can trust Redflex, Ryan said.

“Redflex Traffic Systems is proud of our relationship with our clients in Oregon. Beaverton, Oregon was our sixth contract in the nation and we’ve been working together since 2001,” he said. “We value the trust our clients place in us, and we have taken this situation very seriously. We are committed to our Oregonian clients, and all our customers, and we remain focused on implementing successful programs which reduce collisions and save lives.”

Sgt. Tony Moore of the Salem Police Department had not heard about Redflex’s problems in Chicago, but said all has gone well in Oregon.

“That’s half a world away,” he said of the issues in Chicago. Salem’s contract with Redflex is in an extension, and officials are looking to possibly renew it by the end of the year.

Daniel Danicic, city manager of Newberg, which has had a contract with Redflex for about six years, said he’s confident in the city’s dealings with the company.

“I would say that I’m not concerned about it here,” he said. “We have an established contract that delineates how and when Redflex gets compensated”

Albany Police Capt. Jeff Hinrichs had not hear about the Chicago scandal, but said, “Obviously if there’s some controversy and its legitimate and it’s proven we probably wouldn’t want to be too involved with companies like that.” But he also pointed out he does not oversee the red-light camera program for the town.

The city of Tualatin has a contract with Redflex through June 30, when the city will decide whether to extend it.

Tualatin Police Chief Kent Barker said in an email he also was unaware of the Tribune’s investigation.

“I can only speak on behalf of Tualatin … Redflex has been timely with any of our requests and we believe that our systems are operating appropriately and effectively,” he said.

Redflex also manages cameras for Medford, Fairview and Beaverton; officials with those communities could not be reached for comment.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org, or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.

— Edited by John Trump at jtrump@watchdog.org

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