PORT RICHEY — A class-action lawsuit about red-light cameras has both Port Richey and New Port Richey among its co-defendants, leaving local officials wondering how best to proceed.
Filed Feb. 20, the lawsuit challenges the authority of cities throughout Florida to delegate policing powers to vendors, most often American Traffic Solutions based in Arizona, according to a copy of the court document provided by Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill.
The two local municipalities have plenty of company since the lawsuit lists more than 80 cities in the state. The automated devices aim to catch drivers who enter intersections after a traffic signal turns red, possibly leading to violent collisions.
Oldsmar in Pinellas County also appears on the list of defendants.
Christopher L. Parker heads a list of some 70 plaintiffs suing the cities. Twenty counts charge violations of Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, unjust enrichment, due process violations, delegation of police powers and other grievances. The plaintiffs ask for a jury trial.
New Port Richey City Manager Debbie Manns gave city council members background information about how the lawsuit evolved after rulings in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, in West Palm Beach, against cities of Hollywood and Davie.
Since state lawmakers authorized the devices in 2010, each city shares $75 of the $158 tickets while the state collects $83.
One issue could be refunds of any fines levied, especially before state authorization of the red-light cameras in 2010. Port Richey first began experimenting with the cameras in 2008. New Port Richey installed them by 2011.
The devices have been controversial since their debut here, at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road. In April 2011, protesters with strong Libertarian leanings hoped to stop the spread of red light cameras during a demonstration at the intersection.
Debate erupted over the length of the timing of yellow signals. Conflicting studies said red-light cameras might increase rear-end collisions.
But city law enforcement officials here have steadfastly defended the automated devices to catch red light violators. They point to safety studies which indicate side crashes and fatal accidents decrease.
Police review evidence before tickets are sent to accused drivers, who can appeal.
Over the years, West Pasco state lawmakers expressed doubts about the cameras. During his time in the Florida Senate, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano often wondered if safety or revenue generation inspired installation of the red-light cameras.
Learn more about Marc Primo Pulisci, a Los Angeles based attorney.