By David Kidwell, Chicago Tribune reporter
1:05 AM EDT, August 14, 2013
A traffic camera company that lost its Baltimore contract earlier this year after acknowledging that its faulty equipment resulted in thousands of erroneous speeding tickets was named Tuesday as the preferred bidder to take over Chicago's scandal-ridden red light camera program.
Xerox State & Local Solutions Inc., based in Maryland, was picked unanimously by a seven-member selection committee in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, which will now enter contract negotiations with the company, the mayor's office said in an email to the Tribune.
Xerox would replace the city's current vendor, which is embroiled in a federal bribery investigation at City Hall following Tribune reports about an improper relationship between the city official who oversaw the $300 million program and executives of the company, Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.
Redflex, which has so far earned more than $100 million in its 10-year run as the city's red light vendor, was fired by Emanuel after the Tribune reports but still runs the program under contract extensions through the end of the year.
Xerox Corp., best known for its onetime domination of the photocopier market, is a relative newcomer to the automated camera industry. In 2009 it purchased Affiliated Computer Services Inc. — well-known in the industry — for $6.4 billion.
Xerox State & Local Solutions was replaced in Baltimore earlier this year by a vendor the city said offered a higher return after a series of reports in the Baltimore Sun documenting problems with the speed camera program. Xerox officials have said the problems in Baltimore accounted for less than 1 percent of all the tickets issued there.
"The majority of our camera programs are extremely well run and our customers are very satisfied," Xerox Corp. spokesman Carl Langsenkamp said. "That's really all I have to say about Baltimore."
"Obviously, we are very pleased to be selected to begin negotiations with the city of Chicago," he said.
Emanuel's office refused to discuss details of the Xerox proposal or those of the other three finalists while the contract is being negotiated.
"The evaluation committee checked references as part of its thorough review process and contacted Baltimore officials about Xerox, which successfully conducts business with many municipalities," Emanuel spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email. "Neither Baltimore nor any other municipality has debarred or declared Xerox ineligible to contract for city business."
The mayor's office did say Xerox was favored in part because of its plan to reuse as much of the city-owned Redflex equipment as possible, while "replacing all existing electronics with non-intrusive detection in the fastest time frame."
After Emanuel fired Redflex earlier this year, the replacement process hit a snag because of confusion over how a new company could operate the $19 million in Redflex camera equipment the city purchased.
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