WJTV News Channel 12 - Traffic camera provider tied to federal investigation

Traffic camera provider tied to federal investigation

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JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) -

A company that provides traffic camera services to four cities in the Tri-Cities region is at the center of a federal investigation related to a bribery scandal in Chicago.

Redflex was barred from Chicago, it's largest North American client, after an audit revealed the city's contract may have been influenced by an inappropriate financial arrangement between top company executives and a ranking member of Chicago city government.

All people identified in the scandal have either retired of left their jobs, according to the company and to media reports.

The Chicago incident led Orange County Florida leaders to reject a Redflex low bid to provide traffic cameras in the Orlando suburb.   A local newspaper quoted Commission Fred Brummer as saying, "I don't think it's appropriate for us to congratulate a company that has this type of core value failure.  The appearance to me is dreadful, and appearances matter."

But we found that, here in the Tri-Cities, Redflex clients are taking a more guarded approach.

The Redflex company first came to the region when Kingsport signed a contract in 2007 in a effort provide a response to a record 21 fatalities on city streets in 2005.

"We hoped we could modify driver behavior," said Kingsport Police Interim Chief David Quillin.  Six years later, Quillin likes the results - a 53.7 % reduction in wrecks at the six intersections that originally were chosen for traffic monitoring devices, according to city estimates.  "We've definitely got less people running red lights," said Quillin.  "The numbers show us that."

Earlier this year, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Alderman voted to extend its contract with Redlfex.   There was no discussion of the federal investigation or the company's bribery scandal in Chicago.

"I can say overall we've been satisfied," said Quillin.  "We haven't had any real issues with them."

A similar sentiment led Mount Carmel leaders to renew their contract with Redflex last year before the scandal in Chicago made headlines.

Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said he got a letter from Redflex last March promising internal reform.  "...the individuals who engaged in inappropriate conduct...are no longer with the company," wrote Robert DeVincenzi, President and CEO of Redflex Holdings LTD.
"We have never had anything less than up front and ethical dealings with this company," Chief Sirois told News Channel 11.   "But this will be something we consider as we decide what to do when the contract expires next year.

Sirois said data shows a drop in crashes at camera monitored intersections.   

Jonesborough's Board of Mayor and Alderman will have to vote on the Redflex contract later in 2013.

We asked the Mayor if the Redflex scandal have an impact.

"We have to, as a town, take that very seriously," said Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe.  "We're putting our names on the tickets.  It's our reputation on the line as much as Redflex's."

Wolfe said he's undecided about the camera's future, but he is convinced they are changing driving habits and, as a result, saving lives.

"Before the cameras were installed, I saw not 1,2,3 but 4,5 or 6 people traveling through the lights in town after the light turned red without fear of getting a ticket," said Wolfe.  "That's stopped in the town of Jonesborough.   That's something that I would say is an accomplishment."

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