While still issuing $158 fines for red-light violations, Palm Coast is for now no longer pursuing drivers who refuse to pay, so those drivers will not get the steeper $264 traffic citation. But those citations may be issued pending the outcome of a court case.
You may be better off not paying your red-light camera ticket in light of a court decision declaring issuance of those tickets illegal. Palm Coast is studying the ruling as its cameras continue to flash.
Palm Coast is on the hook for $1.19 million in fines it illegally imposed on drivers between 2007 and 2010, when it ran 10 red-light cameras outside state law. The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 today that such schemes were not permissible. Palm Coast was sued but refused to settle, as did American Traffic Solutions, its contractor. So the city may now have to pay up.
The member-by-member assertion never to have accepted money or gifts from American Traffic Solutions, the red-light camera company that runs Palm Coast’s system, contrasts with an industry known for its lavish spending on lobbying state and local government officials.
Palm Coast’s contract with ATS to run the city’s red-light cameras runs through September 2019 but is mostly silent on monetary penalties should the city opt out. An earlier version of the contract had granted Palm Coast the authority to end it without cause, but the city inexplicably scrapped that provision in 2012.
The City of Palm Coast today submitted a 16-page memo to Flagler County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens explaining, without apologies, its absence from a hearing before the judge on April 30, an absence it sought to justify while hinting at blaming the court for being unclear about its intentions.
There were no dramatic moves Tuesday evening among council members or from the city manager. A dozen members of the public addressed the issue, as did City Manager Jim Landon, as did most of the council members and the mayor. But in the end, the most conclusive action was that the council should talk the matter over more thoroughly at a workshop soon.
With City Manager Landon saying drivers are feeling harassed by red-light cameras, Mayor Netts losing faith in their original purpose and council member Bill McGuire proposing an outright referendum on the matter, the backlash against ATS’s cameras has become so strong that the council will next week discuss the possibility of eliminating them.
Red-light cameras’ powerful lobby defeated Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Brandes’s attempt to end the use of the devices, but several proposed restrictions are still moving through the Legislature, such as limiting profits to safety uses and requiring safety studies before cameras can be installed.
Palm Coast’s red-light cameras siphon off more than $2.5 million out of the local economy every year, in the share that goes to the state and to ATS, the company that runs the scheme, yet the city council quietly approved the deal through 2019, long past the terms of every one of the council members and some of their successors.