Posted Online: Posted online: January 2, 2007 9:33 PM
Print publication date: 01/04/2007
Traffic cameras to stay on, but Davenport will suspend ticket writing
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By Reggie Jarrell,

DAVENPORT -- Davenport's traffic cameras will remain on in the wake of a recent ruling that they're illegal, but the city will not issue tickets to violators caught by them.

City administrator Craig Malin said Davenport plans to take Scott County District Court Judge Gary McKenrick's ruling under consideration.

He said there are other options besides resolving the issue through the court system. An appeals process could take months. If other plaintiffs join the lawsuit that sparked Judge McKenrick's ruling and a court certifies a class action, resolution could be much longer. Another option is to wait until the legislature changes the state law.

Judge McKenrick found Davenport's city ordinance involving red-light and speed cameras "in conflict with, contrary to and inconsistent" with certain provisions of state law.

Aldermen may consider the issue at the next city council meeting.

"It's a possibility the ordinance could be amended to address those issues" Mr. Malin said. "The city council could make some modifications to the ordinance to address the district judge's concerns".

Mr. Malin sees this as a public and traffic safety issue. Motor vehicles are the leading cause of injury and death in this country, he said, and "Davenport is a leader in public safety in Iowa" because it was the first Iowa city to use traffic cameras.

"I suspect there is someone alive in Davenport because of this system," he said. "The first responsibility of local government is public safety. We understand that leadership gets tested every now and then, and that's OK."

According to a media release, since the start of camera use in August 2004, there have been more than 10,000 red-light and 20,000 speed tickets issued. The city had planned to budget about $590,000 in speed and red-light fine revenue to offset or reinvest in public safety costs.

The cameras will remain on and operational, collecting data, but no tickets will be issued in respect of the court's decision Mr. Malin said.

Those who've already received tickets "should follow the laws and pay the bills you received," he said.

Judge Gary McKenrick ruling came out of a lawsuit filed by Monique D. Rhoden, who received a speeding ticket after a camera photographed her vehicle going 11 mph over the speed limit on Kimberly Road. She paid the $45 fine, and then sued the city.

According to her lawsuit, the ticket noted "payment of the penalty amount for the violation will not go on your driving record nor be used to increase your insurance rates."

Judge McKenrick said that language, indicating the ticket would not be reported to the Iowa Department of Transportation, or other departments, for the purpose of being added to the vehicle's owner's driving records, violated state law.

State law requires that within 10 days of a conviction in a traffic case, the clerk of court must forward to IDOT an abstract of the case record. Courts view paying a fine as a conviction.

The judge also found that Davenport's fine structure is "markedly different than the fine structure provided for violations of the state statutes regulating speeding and obedience to traffic signals."

He also determined that state law does not provide for a specific exception for Davenport's ordinance.

The decision did not find that Davenport's ordinance was an "illegal revenue measure," as claimed by Ms. Rhoden.