Jeff Brandes wants FDLE to investigate contracts with red-light camera vendor

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The use of red-light cameras in Florida and around the nation has been a flashpoint for years now, and the news last month that a former CEO of a traffic-camera company in Ohio pleaded guilty to bribing public officials is prompting two state lawmakers to now call on the state to investigate that company’s contracts with local governments in the Sunshine State.

In a letter sent to Florida Department of Law Enforcement head Rick Swearingen this morning, St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Lehigh Acres GOP state Rep. Matt Caldwell are calling on the FDLE to conduct a probe on all contracts awarded by local governments in Florida to Redflex Traffic Systems, based in Phoenix. Redflex, the lawmakers say, has contracts with local governments in Clearwater, Jacksonville and South Miami, among others.

The pair say they are motivated to call for an investigation based on the fact that a former Redflex CEO pleaded guilty last month to bribing officials in Columbus and Cincinnati to win or keep camera contracts.

“The admission of bribery by Karen Finley illustrates the extent to which these providers will go in order to profit off the backs of hardworking Americans,” Brandes said. “State law enforcement should take a look into all contracts that exist in Florida with RedFlex to determine if this type of corruption occurred in our state, and to bring those to justice who violated public trust.”

Finley admitted in federal court that through her former company, Redflex Traffic Systems, she funneled campaign contributions to officials in the two cities between 2005-13, according to a report by the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Perhaps “more disconcertingly,” the lawmakers write, is a lawsuit taking place in Maricopa County, Ariz., regarding former Redflex Vice President Aaron Rosenberg. Rosenberg has alleged that the company routinely gave gifts and bribes to government officials in attempt to steer contracts. That news was first reported in February of 2014, which prompted Brandes, a noted red-light camera critic, to call for a repeal of the use of such technology in Florida. That legislation did not pass in Tallahassee.

The biggest red-light camera vendor in Florida is not Redflex, but American Traffic Solutions. It was learned last week that ATS contributed $10,000 to a political action committee formed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a red-light camera supporter.

“I think Bob Buckhorn is a great public servant and I’m not questioning his integrity at all,” Brandes told the Tampa Tribune on Tuesday. “Personally, in light of the bribery scandal with Redflex and other camera companies, I wouldn’t touch the money with a 10-foot pole.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.