TAMPA, Florida - The contract for the largest red light camera program on Florida's Gulf Coast has expired. But the city is still churning out tickets, and some city council members want to know why.
10Investigates has exposed questionable practices involving red light cameras (RLC) for more than three years. And Tampa's continued use of the controversial technology certainly raises an eyebrow.
The city's contract says the cameras are to be turned off on April 6, 2016, if there is no agreement to extend the cameras in place by then. However, Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to extend the contract and his staff is currently in the middle of a protracted negotiation with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
City Attorney Julia Mandell tells 10Investigates she interprets the contract to allow the city to keep the cameras on while it works out details of an extension. But a majority of the city council, which has the authority to approve or reject contracts, says there has been no communication from the administration regarding the negotiations.
And, at least three city council members said they were concerned they haven't had a chance to air their concerns about where RLC revenues are going, as well as the many conflicting reviews of the technology's safety effects.
Back in 2014, city council rejected a March extension of the camera contract because of similar concerns, before ultimately approving a similar deal in April. However, the administration failed to renegotiate a better deal for the expensive technology, even though ATS captured the majority of ticket revenue and other cities had successfully negotiated lower rates.
Buckhorn will need votes from council again if he wants to extend the camera program, but there's no telling when the city may have a deal ready for their approval.
"I've been waiting for this to come up," said councilman Guido Maniscalco. "Wwe would like a chance to express our opinion with our vote."
Maniscalco is one of several councilmembers who have been vocal critics of both the RLC program and the lack of communication from the mayor's office. He had no idea the city decided to keep its cameras rolling past the contract's expiration date.
"To do this quietly is not fair to the general public...we should have public hearings."
"I think the cameras should come down until they renegotiate the contract," added councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin. "I'm not sure the votes are there (for an extension)."
Councilman Frank Reddick also said he expect significant reforms to the program before he would support an extension, while steady RLC supporter Harry Cohen said he wanted to give the program "a fresh look" after inconclusive - and sometimes contradictory - crash data suggested the cameras may not provide the safety benefits that were promised.
Once again, Buckhorn's office ignored requests for an interview on the subject.
10Investigates previously reported on campaign contributions from camera vendor ATS to Buckhorn's campaign, and how ATS employed the mayor's close friend and political advisor Beth Leytham as a consultant.