County lawyer Jordan V. Watts Jr. said the use of the term "operate" in the contract was "a poor choice of words" and emphasized that county police carry out daily steps needed for the cameras to issue citations.

He called as a witness Ryan Nicolas, Xerox's director of photo enforcement in Maryland. Nicolas described the steps Xerox performs for the county: It reviews each potential citation, gets name and address information from the Motor Vehicle Administration and conducts a secondary review. Then the Police Department does a final review before Xerox mails a ticket to the motorist.

In addition, Nicolas testified, "We furnish, install and maintain the systems that are deployed in the camera."

But Nicolas said the company does not operate the county's program.

"Who is the operator of the Baltimore County speed monitoring system?" Watts asked him.

"Baltimore County," Nicolas responded.

Souder wrote in her ruling: "The State admits that Baltimore County entered into a contract with ACS Xerox requiring ACS Xerox to 'operate' 22 active speed cameras. The testimony of the witnesses confirmed that ACS Xerox is involved in the operation of the speed cameras."

She also drew a distinction from the Montgomery County case, saying that Katz was simply challenging his citation, not seeking a broader remedy.

Ragina Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic's government and media affairs manager, said she knew of no other judicial rulings that a bounty system was illegal.

Katz was one of several speed camera critics and proponents to testify Tuesday in Annapolis on six different bills, including legislation aimed at reforming speed camera laws, forcing contractors to pay penalties for erroneous tickets, and banning the devices.

Averella testified in favor of bills that require daily calibration of the cameras and video recordings as evidence to prove that a motorist was actually speeding. Averella brought a poster of an erroneous ticket issued to a AAA Mid-Atlantic driver. In it, the driver is seen slowing to a stop at a red light in the 2900 block of Orleans Street in 2011. But the ticket accuses the driver of traveling 57 mph in a 25 mph zone.

"It's incredible to think that a motorist can be cited for speeding while standing completely still, but unfortunately it's happened," she said. "Legislators know that this is a big problem, and motorists are now looking to them to fix it."

The city's Department of Transportation "has and continues to take erroneous citations seriously," said Adrienne Barnes, an agency spokesman. "Sadly, thousands of motorists continue to speed and we have an obligation to make our roads safe."

Averella, who serves on a task force charged with studying the city's speed and red-light camera program, said AAA Mid-Atlantic wants localities to discard the so-called "bounty system" and provide better oversight, among other reforms.

"Currently, most Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County are paying the vendors who operate their automated systems on a per-ticket basis. This is in direct conflict with existing law," she said.

Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr., an Eastern Shore Republican, testified in favor of his bill to repeal all speed camera legislation. He said the way counties have abused the bounty system is evidence that the system needs to be scrapped.

"We specifically said we're not going to allow this to happen, and it happened," he said.

But Jacqueline Goodall, the mayor of Forest Heights in Prince George's County, testified that the legislature shouldn't throw out all speed camera programs because some jurisdictions played fast and loose with the law.

"We should penalize those jurisdictions for breaking the law," she said.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • :include slug="bal-news-alerts-instoryinclude"/>