City officials respond to lawsuit targeting red light cameras, say cameras will not be taken down despite expired contract

City officials respond to lawsuit targeting red light cameras, say cameras will not be taken down despite expired contract
PHOTO: WVUE

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - City officials have clarified their position on two key issues surrounding the use of red light traffic cameras installed in 2007 through the controversial Baton Rouge Red Light Camera Program. One issue deals with the viability of the cameras to stay in place past the Jan. 1 contract expiration date, after the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council failed to approve a contract renewal for the program during its Wednesday, Dec. 10 meeting.

Chief administrative officer for the city-parish, Darryl Gissel, clarified Monday the expiring contract only applies to the traffic fine collection and enforcement functions of the cameras, which is managed through an outside firm. The cameras will still be used for traffic control purposes and will continue to be used to record criminal activity in the city, Gissel said in an interview with WAFB Monday, Dec. 17.

Gissel seemed unphased by the metro council’s previous vote, looking forward to the possibility a solution could be reached when the contract is revisited during the first meeting in January. A vote will take place during the council’s last meeting in January, Gissel says.

The other issue deals with the enforcement of red light camera traffic fines by the Department of Public Works (DPW).

“We have long believed that the program in and of itself is unconstitutional in its enforcement in that it deprives people of their right to confront their accuser and it also violates several other provisions of Louisiana law,” attorney, Joseph R. McMahon, said in an interview with WAFB Saturday, Dec. 15.

McMahon, along with attorney, Anthony S. Masaka, filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of several plaintiffs who received “notices of violation” of the red light traffic ordinance. According to the suit, the thousands of similar traffic camera tickets which have been issued by the city since then have been done so illegally, and all money collected should be reimbursed. Both attorneys successfully petitioned for a class action suit in New Orleans using the same legal argument in 2017.

According to Gissel, the city-parish’s legal arm would not comment on this issue, however Gissel noted there were “key differences” in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans red light camera programs that could impact the success of the lawsuit.

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