The state senator who led the charge to eliminate the use of red light cameras in Ohio says a federal bribery investigation adds a “whole new dimension to the claim it’s all about the money.” Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, speaking to reporters at the Statehouse Tuesday, also called on cities suing the state on the issue of red light cameras to drop their lawsuits and refund fines to drivers.
Federal authorities announced Friday that a former chief executive for a Phoenix-based traffic camera company pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy in a scheme seeking to get or keep contracts in Columbus and Cincinnati.
At a press conference Monday, Andrew Ginther, the Democratic nominee in the mayoral race in Columbus and president of Columbus City Council said he is helping with the traffic camera bribery investigation, but isn’t linked to any wrongdoing. Ginther sent an email message to supporters saying he isn’t a focus, target, subject or person of interest. He blames suggestions to the contrary on an effort to smear him and his campaign.
Seitz sponsored legislation to require a police officer be present at every intersection where a red light camera is operating. The new law became effective in March and has prompted several lawsuits by cities. But Seitz says the federal bribery case should send a message to those cities. “I call on the cities to immediately drop their lawsuits,” Seitz said. “These lawsuits are perpetuating a scam. It’s time for them to fess up, pay up, shut up and go away.”
Seitz has been a vocal critic of red light cameras arguing that they are less about public safety and more about money. “It appears that it’s about shady money, it’s about dirty money, it’s about bribery money, it’s about public officials taking money in return for doing favors for red light camera companies so that their own taxpayers and citizens can be fleeced,” Seitz said.
Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman released the following statement in regards to the investigation:
“The Department of Public Safety had the responsibility to evaluate and recommend the best option for the city. I am confident that the Department complied with the appropriate laws, rules, regulations, and city policies. I have asked the Department of Public Safety to work with the City Attorney to examine the procurement, contract, and legislative process associated with the photo red light program.
I had no involvement in the decision to award the contract to Redflex.
I, along with others, have received a request to provide documents to federal investigators and I am responding fully and completely. I encourage those who receive a request for information to cooperate as I am. While I am not the focus, I do consider these allegations to be serious. As such, I will do whatever is necessary to assist the authorities.
It is important that the federal investigators are provided with the appropriate information so that all of the facts come out, so that justice can be served.”