A little over a year, I wrote about a Redflex Traffic Systems, a company that specializes in traffic cameras. The Arizona-based company was awarded a contract from the Gwinnett County Public Schools to install cameras in its school buses.
As noted at the time, Redflex has a pretty sordid past. The company was barred from doing business with the Chicago government because of corruption allegations. Think about that for a moment. The Windy City is known for its, uh, special breed of politics. How sketchy does a company have to be to be barred from doing business there?
Well, earlier this month, the former CEO of Redflex was indicted by a federal grand jury on a number of corruption charges:
The 23-count indictment accuses former Redflex CEO Karen Finley of providing illegal kickbacks to John Bills, a city employee who served as a member of the red-light camera evaluation committee as managing deputy commissioner of Chicago’s transportation department.
The scheme allegedly rewarded Bills with $570,000 in cash and other personal benefits in exchange for insider information that allowed Redflex to expand its Chicago contracts — to the tune of $124 million. The kickbacks were reportedly funneled through one of Bill’s friends, who was hired as an independent contractor at Redflex and earned $2 million in total compensation.
“When public officials peddle influence for profit, the consequences are severe, and when corporate executives enable that corruption, the same rule applies,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “We will attack alleged public corruption from every angle.”
Automated camera enforcement of speed limits and red lights has proven a controversial practice, despite widespread use in many US cities and abroad. The systems are promoted as beneficial to public safety, however critics argue that the cameras are primarily adopted to provide a revenue stream from fines.
You can read the press release on the indictment from the FBI here. Redflex’s former customer liaison was also indicted.