Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Court: Cocoa Beach Red Light Camera Contract Unlawful

COCOA BEACH, Florida - On May 8, Brevard County Judge John Murphy ruled that the red light camera contract between the City of Cocoa Beach and American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (“ATS”) violated Florida Statutes and was therefore unlawful.


The red light camera contract provides for a "flexible payment plan" which guarantees that the City of Cocoa Beach would recover enough revenue to cover the monthly fee established in the contract.  


If sufficient funds are not recovered, ATS would reduce its monthly fee and the shortfall is tolled until time to repay.  The contract also provides that, if at the end of the term of the contract, that shortfall is not repaid by the City of Cocoa Beach, that amount would be forgiven by ATS and ATS agrees to waive its right to recover any outstanding balance.


Satellite Beach attorney Sean Cutshall, Esq. represented three defendants in the case who were issued red light camera tickets. Cutshall argued that, because the contract contains a provision conditioning the City’s payment to ATS upon ATS’s issuance of a minimum number of violations, that the contract was in violation of Florida Statutes Sections 316.0083(1)(b)4 and/or 318.15(15(d).


Judge Murphy, citing several cases around Florida with similar contract provisions that were struck down by other courts, agreed with Cutshall.  “This court expressly finds that the contract between ATS and the City of Cocoa Beach is unlawful," Judge Murphy wrote in his order.  "This Court finds that the appropriate remedy for the contractual violation is dismissal of the traffic infractions.  Dismissal is required because the unlawful contract gives incentive to ATS to generate violations so that it will receive the full payment outlined in the contract.”


“Traffic ticket quotas have long been illegal in Florida," Cutshall said after the court's ruling.  "The City of Cocoa Beach attempted to circumvent this with their red light camera ticket program by hiring a for-profit corporation to issue tickets on the City’s behalf, going as far as having the tickets robo-signed in Arizona with the names of Cocoa Beach Police Officers, then sent to the accused by mail.  By conditioning the City’s payment to American Traffic Solutions on the number of violations issued, the City has created a de facto quota system for red light camera tickets."

11:30 a.m. UPDATE:  

"The City has just received the ruling and is exploring options with the City Attorney," said City spokesperson, Melissa Byron.  "The city attorney will be giving an update to the City Commission at Thursday’s City Commission meeting."