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For 2nd Time in 6 Weeks, a Flagler Judge Declares Palm Coast’s Red-Light Camera System “Improper” and Issues Stern Order

| April 30, 2014

Flagler County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens on Wednesday was displeased by Palm Coast not showing up at its own red-light camera hearing, but said the matter will be resolved one way or the other. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens on Wednesday was displeased by Palm Coast not showing up at its own red-light camera hearing, but said the matter will be resolved one way or the other. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens was not happy.

Not only was Palm Coast improperly telling drivers that the city could have their red-light traffic camera citations dismissed. Not only was the city improperly telling drivers, as part of that deal, that they could get their dismissal as long as they directly paid the city $158, though they would supposedly not have to pay additional dollars to the court system. But Palm Coast had requested a hearing before the judge on its own motion to dismiss a slew of red-light camera tickets—and hadn’t even bothered to show up to its own hearing.

Click On:

Clerk of court staffers and about a dozen individuals who’d been issued citations were in court Wednesday morning for that hearing. So was the judge, of course. Not Palm Coast. And for the second time in six weeks, the seemingly boundless audacity of Palm Coast’s authoritarian interpretation of the state’s red-light camera law was ticking off a judge in Flagler County.

On March 20, Flagler County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Craig appeared before a Palm Coast hearing officer to contest a red-light citation he had himself been issued improperly, as the judge proceeded to show. Wednesday’s case did not involve a judge personally. But it was just as clearly a battle of wills in which a court system was signaling that it was tired of getting pushed around by a city that, in Moore-Stens’s judgment, was exercising authority it did not have.

And exercising it rudely.

Some 22 minutes into the hearing, the judge got Liliana Filipe, a Palm Coast code enforcement customer service representative and data-entry clerk—that is, one of the city’s lowest-rung employees—on the phone.

“Why is the city not present? This was scheduled at 11 o’clock and it’s now 11:22, and I have a courtroom full of people that are waiting for their cases to be heard,” Moore-Stens said.

“The notification that we receive didn’t inform us that we needed to be present,” Filipe said.

“Well, if it’s your motion, and it’s set for a hearing, you need to be here. You did file the motion to dismiss?”


“So why would you not need to be present at a hearing on your motion?”

“I can’t answer that.”

Filipe placed the judge on hold for several minutes. Filipe then returned to say someone from the city would show up in, at most, 10 to 15 minutes. The court recessed. Thirty minutes later, no one had showed up. When the court reconvened the judge explained that an attempt to contact Filipe went to voice mail.

Moore-Stens had thought of issuing a contempt of court order. Instead she issued a show-cause order, requiring Palm Coast to provide within 14 days an auditable list of all the names and citation numbers of people issued traffic citations by the city, and told that as long as they paid the city $158 directly, the traffic citation in the court system would be dismissed, and they would not have to pay additional fines owed the court system.

Red-light cameras are at the source of a long stream of problems that go beyond drivers’ aggravation at being snapped and fined by robotic cameras that presume a car owner’s guilt until innocence is proven. Several court cases have made their way through county, circuit and appeal courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, where two cases on the legality of pre-2010 camera systems may be resolved this year.

The case before Moore-Stens illustrates a lesser-known problem, but one that has driver clerks of court like Gail Wadsworth up the wall, because Palm Coast had seemingly found a way to cash in on red-light tickets by intimidating drivers on one hand and locking out the money owed the court system on the other.

A court steps in to remind Palm Coast that it has no authority to interpret the law, even on red-light cameras.

When a driver is issued a notice of a red-light violation, that infraction is at first a code violation issued through the city’s code enforcement department and the private vendor that runs the system(American Traffic Solutions). The accused can choose to pay the $158 immediately or contest the citation. If the fine is not paid within 60 days, the violation is immediately converted into a state traffic ticket, or a Uniform Traffic Citation. A court file is created for it, and additional fines and fees may accumulate. In many cases, such UTCs are triggered not because the driver doesn’t want to pay the initial fine, but because Palm Coast and ATS have committed errors—as, for example, when initial notices are sent to the wrong address, or when a vehicle owner is falsely accused of having been at the wheel of the cited vehicle. As the case makes its way through the system, and the clock ticks, the case can be resolved in several ways.

But the moment the case becomes a UTC, it is no longer up to Palm Coast to decide how that resolution may occur. That decision rests in the hands of the court system.

Palm Coast has been interpreting the law differently—in Moore-Stens’s view, the city has been misreading the law by presuming that the clerk of court must dismiss violations issued in error. Not so: the law states clearly that the clerk “may” dismiss such tickers, if so requested by the city. But the decision is the clerk’s alone.

“We are here,” Moore-Stens told vehicle owners and others in court Wednesday, “because the city of Palm Coast is telling persons issued these red-light camera tickets information that is not accurate, OK?” She went on: “What the city is doing is they’re issuing these citations from American Traffic Solutions in Arizona. Whether or not you get the ticket, if it doesn’t get paid, it gets sent to the clerk, then the clerk opens a file. The clerk has to docket it, you’ve got an actual person who’s inputting all this information, they’re incurring costs, they’re sending information to you or whoever is named in it, and that person either comes or doesn’t come. If you don’t come, if you don’t pay, there’s a D6.” A D6 means your driver’s license is suspended. “This takes a lot of work on our clerk of court. So for them, when you find out about it a year or two later, your license is suspended or whatever the situation is that’s happening and you go to the city and you ask to clear it up, they’re wanting to dismiss these infractions without any consideration for all the work that’s been put in by the clerk of court.”

Moore-Stens was at pains to explain to the dozen or more drivers present that the court system was not trying to double-bill them, or add fines or prevent them from driving. She wanted them to understand why they were suddenly finding themselves in the middle of this tug of authority between court and city.

“When you pay the city of Palm Coast the $158, when it’s a notice of violation, the city of Palm Coast keeps the bulk of that money,” the judge told the drivers. “Once it becomes a UTC, the state gets money, the clerk’s office gets money, other people get money and the city gets a whole lot less than what they get if you pay it initially as a notice of violation. That’s why they want to dismiss the ticket, so that they can keep more money by being paid under the notice of violation rather than it being paid as a UTC going onto your driving record. I’m not trying to get this on your driving record. I’m not trying to make this difficult for you individually. The city of Palm Coast is citing a statute that does not require anybody in this building to dismiss your tickets.” Moore-Stens added: “For them to tell you that it will be dismissed is improper. That’s why I’m issuing an order to show cause to them for not appearing today.”

Six weeks ago Flagler County Circuit Judge Dennis Craig appeared before a Palm Coast red-light camera hearing officer and declare the city’s red-light citation system flawed to the point of operating in “bad faith” and at the expense of innumerable drivers who are illegally being cited so the city can collect as many fines as possible. Craig was appearing as a vehicle owner who’d been improperly cited: he wasn’t at the wheel of his car when it was caught crossing a red light. The city dismissed his case, but only to get out from under accusations backed up by evidence it could not refute: that it routinely had code enforcement officials sign citations under false pretenses, assuming that most drivers would not challenge the procedure. Craig did, though he won the sort of victory that left the bad-faith system in place.

Today’s case illustrated a different part of that convoluted—and, to the judge, “troubling”—system.

Around noon, the judge got word that the city was calling. “That’s too late. I’m not taking a phone call,” she immediately told an aide.

Later in the afternoon, Moore-Stens issued the written order to the city to show cause.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” she had said in court before closing the day’s proceedings on the issue.

Show Cause Order, Judge Melissa Moore-Stens

42 Responses for “For 2nd Time in 6 Weeks, a Flagler Judge Declares Palm Coast’s Red-Light Camera System “Improper” and Issues Stern Order”

  1. Seminole Pride says:

    This city is trying to go above the law. I hope they get sued..

  2. Ambroz says:

    Good for you Melissa! We are planning to vote for you again next time!

  3. General Elector says:

    Less than 19 Days left to collect signatures to get rid of the Red Light Cameras. Keep those petitions coming. Lets finish the job!

    Do you want to get rid of the Red Light Cameras?
    Please print and sign the petition to End Palm Coasts Red Light Cameras!

    1. Follow the link below & Print it
    Please print extra copies for your friends who are registered Palm Coast voters.
    If you get 5 or more signed. We will pick them up.
    2. Fill it out
    3. Mail it to us at:
    General Elector
    226A St. Joe Plaza Drive
    PMB 107
    Palm Coast, FL 32164

    Join us in the effort to remove them at the link below:

  4. Dennis McDonald says:

    Frank Meeker is the father of 37 additional RDL’s as he placed the motion on the floor. I spoke against this action and the record shows I even question the data that showed increases at two of the six already installed. They had NO response to my questions and voted them in. These people are not representing the Taxpayers and Citizens of Palm Coast and are sucking $2.8 Million out of our economy.

    Dennis McDonald




    Resolution ATS Contract Amendment 1

    ATS Contract Amendment 6-28-2012 redline.vers.


    Mr. Landon gave a brief overview to this item. Nestor Abreu provided a PowerPoint

    City of Palm Coast Page 4

    City Council Meeting Minutes July 3, 2012

    presentation, which is attached to these minutes.

    CM McGuire-the cameras that are in place right now, were they approved by City

    Council? Ans:-Mr. Abreu-Yes.

    CM McGuire-If ATS chooses to put in new cameras, will they receive City Council

    approval? Ans: Mr. Landon explained that ATS will decide the locations of the

    cameras. CM McGuire would like to approve it as a package or disapprove it as a


    CM Meeker-What is the criteria going to be? Ans: Mr. Landon-They will conduct a

    test, they will put up a test camera to see how many people are running the red light.

    They conduct the test for a short period of time and can tell the likelihood if this is a

    camera intersection.

    VM Lewis-ATS will do an evaluation and bring it to us? Ans: Mr. Landon-the contract

    states they will do the evaluation and if it meets the standard criteria for cameras

    warranted, then they have to get permits to install them; if you would like to insert that

    it has to come back for your approval, that is possible.

    CM Meeker-If we approve the location, do we get stuck with the cost? Ans: Mr.

    Landon-You can require a camera be installed, however if it does not meet the

    criteria for a camera, then the City will have to bear the cost. CM Meeker-My question

    was a little bit different, my question was if it comes to Council and we approve the

    location of it, do we have to pay for that camera? Ans: Mr. Landon-No, not if it meets

    their criteria.

    CM DeLorenzo-In the first contract, did ATS suggest any of those locations that were

    not approved by City Council? Ans: Mr. Abreu-Council approved in December the

    Agreement and it was in January that ATS started to evaluate intersections and there

    were some intersections that just did not warrant… CM DeLorenzo-On ATS’s side or

    our side? Ans: Mr. Landon-Mark Carmen was appointed at that time, not Nestor,

    ATS did an evaluation, all of those that did not meet the criteria, the camera was not

    placed, all of those that did meet the criteria, City Council approved the installation of

    the camera.

    CM Meeker Section 2 (D)-would prefer the City shall require drawings of a civil


    Mayor Netts-the bar graph showing the downward trend-suggests that this is

    changing driver’s behaviors. Can we have a metric (traffic count) at the camera

    locations; it would be interesting to see if the traffic has decreased. Does ATS have

    the experience of the anticipation of decreasing the number of violations as we go

    from 4 lanes to 6 lanes? Ans: Ray Tyner-we did conduct traffic counts and can get

    that to Council.

    Suzanne Martin, ATS representative-does not have that information with her but can

    get that information taken from across the States to Council.

    VM Lewis-Page 12 of 16 F-subscribers service agreement-what is an approved

    alternate? Ans: Mr. Abreu-it is not the Sheriff it is staff.

    Public Comments:

    Jack Carall-the numbers are going down because people are avoiding them. Status

    of the Class Action Suit settlement? Where is that money coming from?

    City of Palm Coast Page 5

    City Council Meeting Minutes July 3, 2012

    Dennis McDonald-spoke on the red light camera issue relating to an increase in


    Response to Public Comments:

    Dennis McDonald-Ans: Mr. Abreu explained the data that there were 2 cameras out

    of 6 that increased while the rest decreased.

    Jack Carall-Ans: Mr. Landon explained the City has not settled, the settlement was

    with ATS and the City does not know the terms of that settlement. Since the lawsuit is

    still pending, the City has made sure the money remained in the Street Improvement

    Fund to cover those costs associated with the lawsuit.

    CM DeLorenzo-East Hampton is averaging 3 violations per month and accidents are

    up 65%-this is a real concern; cameras cause people not to drive naturally.

    A motion was made by Council Member Meeker and seconded by Vice Mayor

    Lewis that the Resolution be adopted. This motion was approved by the

    following vote:

    Mayor Netts, Vice Mayor Lewis, Council Member McGuire, and Council

    Member Meeker

    Approved: 4 –

  5. Florida Native. says:

    How dare Palm Coast officials to not show up for this hearing. That’s blatant hypocrisy at it’s worst. The money grubbing,gouging,two-faced hypocrites can’t even come out of their ivory tower for a short time to show these hard working folks some respect? This town is slipping into a dark abyss that it might not be able to recover from and the word is already out. I assure you the folks visiting from out of town that got red light tickets getting off I-95 won’t be coming back ever again. What the hell. It’s just money. The money that they won’t get from visitors they will extort from the hard working people that live here via red light cameras.

  6. Flagler Parent says:

    The red light cameras really just need to go.

  7. fruitcake says:

    It’s difficult to put into words how rediculous this whole thing has gotten.
    The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing or is supposed to do….
    all they all know is how to grab the money!

  8. Rick" says:

    Well, look at that. One crooked & illegal way or another this low life, lying, cheating town will try any effin way to make more $$.
    Should anyone be surprised?

  9. City Council Strikes Again says:

    At the end of the day, lets all be honest finally, Netts and the City Council are 100% responsible for all of this. They know all the hanky panky is going on via Jim Landon and his gang and as DeLorezo put it in writing when complaints were brought to him about Landon and his crews criminal behavior, “he serves at the pleasure of the City Council.” A pleasure indeed Jason De Lorenzo, when you and your gang of five are run out of town for your conspiracies to defraud the citizens of Palm Coast. You have been given ample opportunity to turn the ship around and refused. We are not going to grovel no matter how much you sick men wish you could see it.

  10. Red Faced says:

    I really liked this place until the Red Light Cameras were installed. It is quite obvious that greed outweighs the voice of local citizens! I can’t wait to move out of Palm Coast!

    • Openminded says:

      It is so simple. Cameras are everywhere. Red Light Cameras are there to prevent accidents. Not to spy on you. Before the Red Light Cameras I never went through a Red Light. I made a full stop before turning right. Red Light Cameras did nothing to protect you from me. However, I am thankful for the Red Light Cameras protecting me from those who oppose the Red Light Cameras. I DO believe that the fines are much too high.

  11. Smh says:

    The city? Improper? ….no….

  12. Rick" says:

    Actually after reading the Show Cause Order one more time again it appears Palm Coast some what got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

  13. m&m says:

    This is another refection of how arrogant and deceitful this city manager and counsel are. They think they’re above the law.. They ALL MUST GO>>

  14. Anonymous says:

    the city of palm coast does not keep the bulk of the money, the bulk of the money goes to greedy Tallahassie and ATS. And ATS are the ones that first all the violations and than send them to code enforcement.

  15. william harvey says:

    The city does not keep the bulk of the money, a lot of it goes to the greedy state and than to ATS

  16. Just an observation says:

    I believe the red light cameras are actually hurting the local economy. First, when people get these tickets and do not defend themselves for fear of more fines, then they have less money to spend on other things. There are many people just making ends meet in this economy.
    Also, as for myself, I avoid shopping in Palm Coast all together. I can’t tell you how many times I have been almost rear ended stopping for a yellow light for fear it will turn red while I am turning and I will be ticketed.

  17. Shame on the City of Palm Coast says:

    The City of Palm Coast tried to be just as big of bullies when it came to the City elections…..our elections supervisors didn’t stand for their arrogant ways either. I am glad there are some people that can see what is going on and stand up to the City and their corrupt ways.

  18. Paul Henry says:

    Once again, the camera scheme is all about money. Turning law enforcement into a for-profit scheme is a bad idea.

    • James says:

      Follow the laws = No fines!

      • Openminded says:

        James; It is THAT simple. I am very much a Libertarian. However, on the road, the safety of fellow drivers is everyone’s responsibility. Including mine. Therefore, Red Light Cameras do not bother me at all. They only bother people who intend to speed up through red lights and/or not come to a full stop at a right turn, etc…However, I DO agree that the Fines are too high.

  19. Paul Henry says:

    What happened to Judge Craig also happened to a fellow named Salvatore Altimari in Palm Beach County. His ticket was not dismissed. He appealed, and the case went to the 4th District Court of Appeals. They held that since the “violation” was non-criminal that the shifting of the burden of proof to the vehicle owner was proper.

    I suspect what happened with the Judge was due to who he was, not the merits of the case, but I salute him for standing against a bad law.

  20. RightIsRight says:

    Good for you judge. You may also want to take into account your duty to uphold the constitution, with maybe some special emphasis on the 6th amendment.

  21. Michael says:

    I think the Judge should assign monetary sanctions to the City for each of the defendants present and all Court Costs associated. And make it retroactive for other cases and defendants in the past who spent valuable time and money dealing with the No Show City.

  22. The Judge is due an apology! says:

    Hey Palm Coast, here’s your sign!!! Stop being the big bully and start being community oriented! It was very disrespectful to not show up for court and then to say someone would be there in 10-15 minutes and not show up and then not to answer the phone! The City Manager is responsible and should be held accountable. The City Council and the Mayor should hang their heads in shame!

  23. confidential says:

    Kudos to Judge Melissa Moore Stens! When we voted her for the circuit seat, we knew she will fight for justice for all.
    Cameras for profit are not fair…specially in a city and county that pride to have the highest unemployment rate in spite of highly advertised and public funds hungry, County Economic Development and city BAC. What a travesty!

  24. Stephen Donaldson says:

    Read more on the RLC Fraud.
    camerafraud on Facebook

  25. The judge should just declare Palm Coast’s red light camera program to be an illegal scam and shut it down.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  26. T. Conrad says:

    And the beat goes on…

    Reading about the words, and actions, of our political leaders, including all levels of the judicial system, is very discouraging.

    When the childish posturing is over, we citizens will be screwed again.

  27. thinks this is bs says:

    Think is sad that a Judge on a power trip is doing something that isnt normally done on a day to day basis. The city wasnt requested to be there, the order simply stated state of florida vs the def’s did not mention city of palm coast at all. Im not exactly for these red light cameras, but the employees have a job to do and shouldnt’t be bashed by a half a$$ Judge on a mission!

    Sad but true this same judge doesn’t hear citations issued by Law Enforcement Officers because she is too busy and an attorney or hearing officer has to hear those cases. But this Judge on a political mission since Judge Craig’s vehicle got cited has time in her busy day to hear red light cases. Yes interesting and disturbing. If people dont like the law than fight Tallahassee lawmakers and city council not the little people.

    Judge Stens I have an idea why dont you hear regular traffic cases and put people in jail instead of screwing with little low level city employees as was said who are trying to feed their families.

  28. New Palm Coaster says:

    Honestly, when you add it all up, that is, the way this city is so poorly managed, would someone please disconnect those red light cameras and swiftly hand the Palm Coast city manager his walking papers? Enough is enough with both.

  29. Rob says:

    The Daytona News Journal online posted a response from the city manger to Judge Melissa Moore Sten’s court order.

    Those of you who believe that malarkey Jim Landon spit out are probably the same ones who voted for the Mayor and you probably still believe there are WMD’s in Iraq.

  30. JoJo says:

    Visitors to our City are discouraged by all the red light cameras. They say it’s overkill and won’t be back. Nothing but a money grabbing ploy. Out with all the politicians we elect in this City in November. Take a stand pilgrims!

  31. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    Well reading between the lines it looks like PC owes a TON OF MONEY to the county for their cash register traffic enforcement. What I want to know is when will the citizen of PC get a VOTE to kill the RLC’S that are unconstitutional? Where is a local atty to pick up the fight? Damn I glad I live in FB.

  32. McKenna Myrick says:

    I got a red light ticket notice only after they said that I did not pay it and it had been turned into a citation for $264. The ticket was issued in my father’s name as the car was registered to him. I was driving the car at the time and knew that a ticket would be coming, I had a school bus in front of me and assumed that since the light had just turned green I would be ok, but low and behold by the time I could see the light it was red. Anyway, I looked for the red light ticket to come and it never did. When I got the other increased one, I went to the court house to try to get a court date, but they refused to help me because the ticket was in my dad’s name. My dad is up north working and had been for some time. He had no way within their time limits to take care of this himself. My question is who holds the city responsible for proving that the driver got a ticket in the first place. If I say I paid something, I have to prove it. Why are they allowed to say…we sent it…..Should they not be required to send the red light ticket with signature required for acceptance to prevent all of the issues that go with it if the driver is never notified? I would be willing to pay the extra $3-4 cost for that instead of the extra $109 I got stuck paying not to mention the points and insurance implecations.

    • Paul Henry says:

      Welcome to the world of automated for-profit law enforcement. You’ve illustrated yet another reason why turning law enforcement into a for-profit scheme is a bad idea. Just like how the camera scheme is not required to ID the driver, it is also not required to verify receipt of a ticket. It is “presumed” the owner received it, just as it is “presumed” the owner broke the law. The law states “The notification must be sent by first-class mail. The mailing of the notice of violation constitutes notification.”

      Those in this situation in the future should seek legal advice, as attorneys are able to contest tickets on behalf of their clients. Always go to county court, never go to city-run kangaroo court.

  33. Red Faced says:

    Today’s Daytona New Journal had an article about this same story. PC is now questioning whether the red-light camera system should remain in operation.

    Web Link:

    P.S. Thank you Flagler Live for covering this never ending saga!

  34. Mike says:

    I am sorry but for the first time in 22 years I am ashamed of the City I live in, Palm Coast is a nice place, but with such arrogant leadership. How can Mayor Nett’s and his council allow Jim Landon to remain in his position, This is how many times now that Landon and the city Attorney have gone way above their power level? The fight with the property owner on Bull Dog Drive, that the City does not even own, then doing construction on the same road. In the private sector if Landon had incurred all these mishaps he would be terminated for poor job performance, Mayor and council should relieve Landon of his position and then step down, you all have embarrassed your self’s and the people of this city long enough.

  35. jc says:

    GREED! GREED! GREED!….Everyone wants a piece of the action, while people are going broke, others are lining their pockets. Just visited Australia, wow! found out we are not the best country in the world!

  36. HorseWith Aname says:

    Just a observation. Anyone notice the yellow light timers are alot shorter than other cities? This is probably done intentionally. You know how much wear and tear is being put on cars braking systems. And i cant help but to wonder how many rear end collisions these cameras are causing from people slamming on their brakes to stop in time.

    From my understanding which is what i was taught in drivers ed. once the yellow light is on you need to make the decision of wether you can safely stop in time. Well if the yellow light is shorter than its suppose to be :)

    Secondly if your front tires are past the line before the red light is on then by law you are allowed to continue through as the green light timer for opposing traffic is suppose to be timed to allow for this.
    Both seem like legitamate defenses and someone really needs to check the timers on that yellow light, I have never seen such a quick escalation to red in my life anywhere else in the country. Its a scam!!!!

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