By Todd Feurer
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago man has filed a lawsuit seeking class action status against the city’s former red light camera vendor, claiming the company should provide approximately $100 million in refunds to motorists caught by the cameras, because it only got the contract through bribery.
Matthew Falkner filed the federal lawsuit Thursday against Redflex Traffic Systems and its Australia-based parent company, Redflex Holdings.
Falkner received a $100 red light ticket at the intersection of 76th Street and Stony Island Avenue on Jan. 19, 2013, according to the lawsuit. He claims, under the contract Redflex had with the city for 10 years, it received 20-25 percent of the money from every red light camera ticket.
Redflex was booted as the city’s red light camera vendor in 2013, after company officials admitted a Redflex employee bribed a city transportation official to steer Chicago’s red light camera contract to the firm.
Former Transportation Department executive John Bills, 52, was arrested by federal authorities in May, accused of taking more than $643,000 in cash and checks from an unnamed Redflex consultant. That consultant also allegedly bought Bills a $177,000 condo in Arizona, helped him pay off loans, and paid for his retirement party.
Redflex has since been replaced by Xerox, under a new contract the city has said will save taxpayers $50 million.
The lawsuit was filed one day before a Chicago Tribune investigation found thousands of drivers have received red light camera tickets they did not deserve, as a result of either faulty equipment or possible human intervention.
The Tribune reported many cameras in Chicago experienced sudden and unexplained severe spikes in the number of tickets issued. Experts told the tribune the deviations should not happen in automated camera systems, and could only be the result of malfunctions or a change in procedure to catch more violators.
Falkner’s lawsuit estimates the city received at least $500 million from red light tickets from 2003 to 2013, and Redflex received at least $100 million share of that revenue.
“As a direct result of the bribery scheme, defendants were able to contractually retain approximately 20-25% of all ‘ticket revenue’ generated by tickets,” the lawsuit alleged.
Falkner claimed, because Redflex obtained the city contract through bribery, it should be forced to provide refunds.
“Both Redflex and the City of Chicago have recognized that the Redflex contract with the City of Chicago was secured through corrupt behavior,” his attorneys wrote in their complaint. “As such, Redflex’s $100 million (+) dollars in revenue since 2003 generated under the corrupt contract represents ill-gotten gains that have unjustly enriched Redflex.”
The city is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which does not seek a refund of the full $100 fine from red light tickets, but only Redflex’s share of the revenue.
“Defendants’ retention of said benefit violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity, and good conscience,” Falkner’s attorneys wrote.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status to cover any person who received a red light camera ticket and paid the fine while Redflex had its city contract. A federal judge would have to approve class-action status.
The suit estimates hundreds of thousands of motorists have received red light camera tickets to date.