Traffic Camera Refunds in the Mail



For the Sunday News-Register

STEUBENVILLE ó The traffic camera speeding refund checks are in the mail.

Attorney Gary Stern, who represented his wife, April, in filing for an injunction to stop the city from using the cameras, said more than 2,700 refund checks totaling more than $258,000 were mailed out Thursday. Stern said he was provided that information by the cityís finance office.

Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge David Henderson in March ruled the city violated its own ordinance on the traffic cameras and ordered the city to stop using the cameras and refund money collected on tickets.

The ordinance required the publication of the list of streets to be monitored by the traffic cameras and for signs to be erected near where the traffic cameras would be placed prior to the date of enforcement. The judge ruled both requirements were violated.

The city began using the Traffipax portable cameras on Sept. 22, but that practice was halted Dec. 5 when Henderson issued a preliminary injunction.

Henderson in April approved a request by Stern to take $17 from every $85 ticket paid to cover his expenses and time in fighting the automated traffic cameras in court. Stern said the checks will total $68 plus interest earned during the past three months.

Stern said there are 17 people who paid the traffic tickets who canít be located by mail. He said their refund money, if they canít be located, will be turned over to the state for unclaimed funds.

After Henderson overturned the original ordinance, council passed a revised ordinance June 20 that would allow the cameras to go back onto the streets, but Stern filed for an injunction on behalf of Louis Tripodi, owner of Steubenville Bakery, asking that the newest traffic camera ordinance be declared unconstitutional.

Stern is arguing the traffic cameras discourage customers from entering Steubenville to shop and cause significant financial harm. Stern said in the lawsuit the cityís traffic camera ordinance is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the general traffic laws of the state and because it violates the due process rights of persons receiving a traffic camera citation.

The city passed the second ordinance because officials said it was locked into a five-year contract with Traffipax that it could not break. But if the cameras are declared unconstitutional, the contract is void, officials said.

The injunction hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, with Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. presiding.

In addition to the suit, Stern helped to distribute a petition to place the automated traffic camera issue on the Nov. 7 ballot. The petition has been submitted for review and validation by the city finance director.

More than 760 signatures requesting that the ordinance be submitted to voters during the general election were on the petition, said Stern.

Stern submitted the petition on July 19 to city Finance Director Michael Marshall, who had to hold the petition for at least 10 days.

Marshall said he must submit the petition along with a certified copy of the traffic camera ordinance to the Jefferson County Board of Elections for validation by Monday, Aug. 21.

ďThere is a three-week window to bring (the petition) over,Ē said Marshall. ďItís able to be filed at my discretion. Itís my intention to file it next week.Ē

Marshall said he needs the certified copy of the ordinance before he can file the petition.

The board of elections will validate the signatures and if there are the 564 valid signatures, it will put it on the ballot, said Stern. If placed before voters, the ordinance cannot take effect unless it is approved at the polls in the November election. It also cannot take effect if itís declared unconstitutional by Bruzzese, said Stern.