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Palm Coast On Red-Light Camera
Ticket Refunds: Don’t Hold Your Breath

| June 17, 2014

Seeing red. (© FlaglerLive)

Seeing red. (© FlaglerLive)

If you got a red-light camera ticket before July 2010 in palm Coast and are wondering whether you’ll get your money back, keep wondering.

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The Palm Coast City Council’s attorney and its city manager Tuesday morning both addressed the outcome of the Florida Supreme Court decision last week that ruled Palm Coast’s and other Florida cities’ pre-2010 red-light camera schemes illegal. Remarkably, council members kept entirely silent about their actions leading to the institution the illegal program. So did the city manager and the attorney.

Bill Reischmann, the attorney, instead laid out arguments that could keep Palm Coast from having to pay back any or most of the $1.2 million it took in before July 2010, when a state law went into effect, allowing local governments to run red-light camera schemes but also standardizing the system and its forms of payments.

Beyond those arguments, Palm Coast government is still more confused and uncertain than clear-eyed on how to proceed next, preferring to wait and see how other cities and courts will decide the matter. “Moving forward as far as how we dispose of these, I simply would suggest that we’re going to need to take our time and see what happens with some of these other cases,”   Reischmann said.

But City Manager Jim Landon said that even if the city had to repay the money, “the community won’t see any impact, it definitely won’t raise any taxes, it’s just a matter of adjusting our capital improvement plan.”

Two legal arguments, or defenses, weigh in Palm Coast’s favor and against paying back the money.

The first is that even though Palm Coast faces a lawsuit regarding the red-light cameras similar to those faced by the two cities that led to the Supreme Court decision (Orlando and Aventura), there is no “class certification” in that case. That is, the law suit pertains to a single individual, not to a class of individuals who got ticketed. Orlando is making that argument, Reischmann said, suggesting that Palm Coast could make it, too. (American Traffic Solutions, the private company that runs Palm Coast’s red-light camera scheme, chose to settle its portion of the lawsuit, however, and gave all ticketed drivers an opportunity to get a refund of a portion of their fine. Reischmann did not mention the ATS settlement and pay-outs.)

“There is no class certification in the city of Orlando. There’s no class certification in the city of Aventura,” Reischmann said. “And there’s other jurisdictions that are still in the same situation including but not limited to the city of Palm Coast. There’s no class certification here.” He added: “Yes, there is precedent coming out of Florida Supreme Court, but it would impact that one case, that one individual, that one ticket.”

The second argument is that drivers who “voluntarily” paid their fine before July 2010 gave up the right to subsequently contest the fine, even if it was illegally imposed. Reischmann explained: “When someone makes a voluntary payment, that’s what it’s called, the voluntary payment defense, when someone makes a voluntary payment and does not appeal, this is against local governments, and later on there’s a decision that changes the basis for that underlying wrongdoing, that at that point in time that person that made that voluntary payment can’t come in and sue to get their money back. So what the city of Orlando has already announced is that they’re contemplating going through the process of going through the people that did get tickets, red light camera tickets, and did not make voluntary payments, and it will be looking at making refunds for those folks that will not be impacted by that defense.”

“That’s what those cities are doing. I can’t speak to what the city of Palm Coast will do,” Reischmann said.

The lawsuit against Palm Coast was put on hold by both parties because “both sides recognized the importance of getting some clarification from the Florida Supreme Court on this one issue, on this one legal matter, which is the issue of preemption, so that’s really where we are as far as the legal aspects.”

There was no hint from any of the council members that they were interested in giving the city administration their own guidance on how to proceed, though it is entirely in the council’s power to do so.

“I would assume,” Mayor Jon Netts said, “ that as this plays out in the other jurisdictions, at some point a court, the courts, will outline what the appropriate behavior, reaction, repayment, refunding for a city would be.”

“We will be able to rely upon more decisions that come out of other courts involving other jurisdictions for guidance, in giving the city of Palm Coast guidance and advice on what would be appropriate, and what would be the best way to address the issue in our case,” Reischmann said.

“So this is stay tuned,” Netts said.

When it was Landon’s turn, he showed a video of a recent traffic crash. “The courts seem to be dominating the conversation, but I would like to show something that we recently received from the Sheriff’s Office to show why we do this program, and what was behind doing this,” Landon said.

The video shows a bicyclist crossing Palm Coast Parkway at Belle Terre Parkway, and getting struck by a car crossing the intersection. But the video had nothing to do with red-light runners, unless you consider cyclists—who cannot be cited by red-light cameras—part of the problem. Many cyclists think the normal rules of the road don’t apply to them. Many are old, confused, unaware. Clearly, this video had nothing to do with red-light running or red-light cameras.  Landon conceded as much immediately. “In this case,” he said, “the driver was not at fault. The driver actually did not run a red light. But the bicyclist did.”

Landon went on to explain why the court’s decision last week will not impact city finances regardless. He said he’d heard rumors that the Supreme Court case “is going to have a major financial impact on the city. In fact it will have very little to no impact that our community will feel as a result of this if, and it’s still a big if, we have to reimburse any of the citations prior to July 2010.”

The dollars, he said, never went into the city’s operating funds, going instead into the street improvement fund, which, as a result of the additional revenue, expedited street and safety improvements. The city had plans for changing out all street signs to meet ADA requirements, for example, and to upgrade and repair all guardrails, do intersection improvements and additional striping. “As a result of revenue from the red-light camera program, we expedited those,” he said. “We got those things done ahead of schedule. But it’s all in our five-year capital improvement plan.”

The street-improvement fund generated revenue of $10 million this year, though Landon called that figure “misleading as far as being consistent year in and year out,” because grant dollars also account for the sum, including grants covering Palm Coast Parkway construction. Revenue not so restricted is about $2.5 million to $3 million a year. “If we have to reimburse, and that’s still an if, it would come out of this fund, where the dollars went into initially, and it would be a matter of adjusting that five-year capital improvement fund,” Landon said.

If the city has to reimburse the $1.2 million, Landon said, it won’t have any visible impact on the city. “All the naysayers that are out there saying we’re going to collapse as a result of this,” Landon said, “it’s almost amazing as to how the rumors and stories can get started.”

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23 Responses for “Palm Coast On Red-Light Camera
Ticket Refunds: Don’t Hold Your Breath”

  1. confidential says:

    I welcome the Manager’s suggestion that they won’t raise taxes if needed to refund us those $158 plus in tickets, per his words “it’s just a matter of adjusting our capital improvement plan.” Hope refers to NOT building the city hall, as we can’t afford it!

  2. confidential says:

    By the way payments were NOT voluntarily was coerced by enforcement or risk being higher penalty and points in drivers licenses. What a crooked way to interpret the law!

  3. Genie says:

    This city is just begging for a class action lawsuit. I’m willing to bed a firm steps forward to do just that.

  4. Seth Khaos says:

    Palm Coast mailed my Traffic tickets to the wrong address, I never seen the tickets, Then they suspend my license. I hav to pay the ticket in order to drive to work, That’s not voluntary payment. That’s Paying a Ransom, I haven’t even been told what I did, just that I better pay or I can’t drive……

  5. Jeffrey Barksdale says:

    Red Light Cameras

    The problem, as someone who has had to pay the red light ticket, is the out of balance cost if the person fighting loses. On my “citation” it stated that my costs if i fight and lose could as high as $400. That was a cost I was not willing to incur. So to say we paid the fine “voluntarily” is a laughable statement.

    My ticket was prior to 2010 when the yellow lights were shortened to manufacture more violations. The other issue I see in the cities response is when they said, the legal action was not a class action, therefore they are not “required” to pay. As a matter of integrity the city should pay back every dime to it’s citizens. I know I will be voting for ANYONE new who runs for office in Palm Coast, starting with the Mayor and anyone else who condones this extortion like behavior.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The council of Palm Coast clearly is demonstrating your abundant stupidity.
    I smell enormous number of law suit and perhaps a juicy class action suit!! PC does do learn a lesson much ethics.

  7. Shark says:

    Landon is a joke. Take his $200,000 salary and use it as a down payment .

  8. tulip says:

    Class Action Lawsuits take a long long time, make the attorneys very rich and the “victim” gets pennies on the dollar.

    • Genie says:

      @ Tulip, I don’t think anybody wants to get rich off such a lawsuit, only recover all of our money. Attorneys need to have some way of being paid.

      The important thing here is to remind Mr. Landon and our mayor they must follow the law. Selectively choosing which laws you will enforce and which you won’t is not acceptable behavior by our city officials or any other politician, for that matter.

  9. Allen Stevens says:

    Palm Coast leaders need to learn a lesson. Instead of trying to figure out how NOT to pay the refunds, they should be setting up a way VICTIMS of the traffic citations can get 100 percent of the fine back. It’s time officials COMPLY with a courts order. A refund DOES NOT mean PART of the fine, it means 100 percent of it back. These people HAVE to be voted out!!

  10. General Elector says:

    If you received a Red Light Camera Ticket in palm Coast, prior to July of 2010 and want your money back. Please message me or our page below your Name, Address, and contact number. We are preparing a class action suit to get everyone who got an illegal ticket their money back.

    Join us in the effort to get your money back and remove the cameras:

  11. Nancy N. says:

    Wow, could these idiots make it more clear who they work for? (hint: it’s a three letter word that starts with ATS)

    And I honestly have to say that I do not believe I have ever seen a political body commit mass political suicide in such dramatic fashion as the city council seems to be doing by their continual tone deaf pronouncements on these cameras.

    November is going to be ugly. I hope they have new employment lined up (maybe ATS will hook them up).

    • Rob says:

      That is the fundamental problem with the town council. It is made up, for the most part, of people who don’t work or need employment, they are retired. They care little of the working class.

      I have heard a theory that they don’t want to bring living wage paying jobs to the city because they want to keep the city just like it is. They don’t want an influx of younger people and families, which is what jobs will bring.

  12. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    Pay up you Palm Coast has done its citizens and non-citizen wrong, the longer PC waits interest will add.

  13. Carl says:

    Everybody with half a brain, that is not a sheep being led to slaughter , Ive seen many of them on this site too dumb to know their civil liberties are being stripped away and say (so what just don`t run red lights ) they can stay home and watch Fox News, but the rest of the population with a brain in this town should picket out front of city counsel head quarters and their houses make them pay back the money and take these damn spy cams down , don`t give these slugs a minute of peace or privacy , they are getting paid big bucks to ruin our city and they done it , its an over crowded crime ridden slum with a sub par Sheriff`s office full of nothing but bullies with a badge, they used to be officers with care and concern and an even temper, now we got a criminal city counsel , and a bunch of militant arrogant bullies for police………… I WANT MY TOWN BACK!!

  14. Sherry Epley says:

    When a politician holds a microscope over the fine print to find a loop hole that will keep them from refunding illegal fines, those politicians are NOT acting in the best interests of the citizens in their community. Every council and staff member involved in implementing the red light cameras, keeping the red light cameras, and finding a way around refunding the illegal tickets payments should be completely ashamed! They are acting without ethics or integrity and should be removed from office immediately!

    Get out the vote Palmcoasters, and use the ballot box to find “honest” representatives!

  15. Brian says:

    Mayor Netts and company…..consider yourselves unemployed come election time! You thieves do nothing but talk directly out of your asses and expect us to believe it is potpourri! The court spoke. ….your scheme to defraud the people exposed…..and now you are waiting to see if another jurisdiction can win an appeal before you comply with a court order? The next time your asshat code enforcement yahoo ites me for overgrown grass or parking on the swail……..I will just wait until my neighbor appeals his before I decide to pay or not.
    You arrogant bastards can take your red light cameras, your code enforcement cronies, and your entire city council, manager and attorney and shove them all up the same orifice through which you all speak! This town is becoming the joke of Central Florida. Why not do something that the people who voted you into office want…..even just once? Oh wait…..that’s right. You voted yourselves into office and gave the voters a 1-finger salute as you took your oaths of office!

  16. Kevin says:

    The problem is the council, the members are stubborn and refuse to take any action, one ember sleeps at meetings and another sits there and tells us he refuses to change based on his business 30 years ago. It’s time to get these out of date, out of touch, rich snobby council members out of office, and place someone who cares what the public wants!

  17. ken says:

    But City Manager Jim Landon said that even if the city had to repay the money, “the community won’t see any impact, it definitely won’t raise any taxes, it’s just a matter of adjusting our capital improvement plan.”

    Sorry Jim, we are not as stupid as you think.

  18. Geezer Wants Good Italian Bread says:

    We have a bumper crop of undisguised bureaucratic bulls*** artists in Palm Coast,
    but darned if I can find good semolina bread on a Sunday morning.

  19. Rob says:

    Unfortunately there are only two town counicl seats that are being contested in the next election.

    Those people who re-lected Netts are about as bright as a two watt bulb. Thankfully this should be the last we will see of him. The damage to the economy of this city that he presided over is considerable. If anyone would like to know who to blame for the ineptitude over the past several years just look up the names of the previous town councilors.

  20. Genie says:

    @ Ken: Oh, I don’t know about that! We watched him take $8 million out of our storm water funds and give it to a local landowner and then raise our water rates and did nothing about it.

    And now he’s building a new City Hall even when the voters said, “NO”.

    I’d say that’s pretty stupid.

  21. Call it Even says:

    If PC removes ALL of the Red Light Cameras, I’ll call it even. I might even start playing golf, tennis and swimming at the city owned facilities. Plus, I can shop at Walmart again too!

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