A speed camera watchdog group is calling on Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides to move forward with an audit of the city system Pantelides said he would "favor" in January.
The Maryland Drivers Alliance, which was involved in a push earlier this year to pass legislation intended to protect motorists from erroneous tickets and other speed camera abuses, called Monday for the city to open the books on the program to identify possible errors.
Ron Ely, founder of the alliance, said technical details about the cameras and specifics on how the program is run should be made public. Ely also said the city's 2012 contract with Illinois-based vendor RedSpeed USA includes language hampering those seeking details on the city's program.
Pantelides said in January he would favor an audit of the city's speed cameras, given the high error rates that have plagued similar systems elsewhere in the state.
But he said Tuesday he will hold off on calling for any audit because of his confidence in "ongoing tests" conducted by the Annapolis Police Department since complaints about the cameras arose.
Pantelides said in a statement that the department conducts "ongoing tests that measure accuracy using police radar." He said Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop told him those tests have "in each case shown" all cameras to be accurate.
"I made the comment that I would entertain an audit of the program at the time I came into office, since it was still a relatively new program and we had received some complaints about the cameras," Pantelides said.
"While APD conducted those test for cause after a complaint, I have no problem having that done on a routine basis. While I feel comfortable with the current process, I will call for an audit if the situation changes."
As more cities and counties have rolled out speed camera systems in the state, reports of issues with the programs have followed.
The Baltimore Sun reported last week that data submitted by Xerox State & Local Solutions for Howard County's four cameras repeatedly listed more vehicles speeding than there were cars on the road, according to documents reviewed by The Sun.
The 2013 data sometimes reported that 200 percent, 400 percent or even 600 percent of the number of cars that passed by a camera were speeding.
Some lawmakers are expected next year to reintroduce legislation that would require quarterly audits of all speed camera programs in Maryland.
Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, sponsored legislation earlier this year that would have mandated an annual independent review of local speed camera calibration. If more than 5 percent of citations were deemed inaccurate under the bill, the operator would be required to pay 50 percent of the inaccurate citations.
Speed camera legislation passed during the 2014 General Assembly did not require audits. McMillan said that if he is elected for another term, he will push again for regular audits of local speed camera systems.
"Everyone says their system is good and doesn't need an audit – until it gets audited," McMillan said.
Annapolis' speed camera program is operated by RedSpeed USA, an Illinois-based company that signed a contract with the city in 2012 to run the program.
Three Annapolis speed cameras were installed April 8, 2013, and issue $40 citations to drivers going 12 mph or more over the posted speed limit in school zones between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Earlier this year, the program was the subject of debate during a public hearing earlier this year, during which a representative from RedSpeed responded to concerns about the program.
During the hearing, city officials supported the speed camera program. Former Acting City Attorney Timothy Murnane said the city's Law Office conducted an internal audit of the program and its equipment, similar to an audit performed in Wicomico County.
The city police pre-rejected 2,259 citations out of more than 11,000 issued, Murnane said. Several officers review each citation before they are issued to vehicle owners.
The Law Office audit did not use the same methods as the Baltimore audit that identified 13 city cameras with double-digit error rates. Baltimore's speed camera program was administered in 2012 by Xerox State and Local Solutions, the same firm that runs Howard County's program. Baltimore's program was shut down last April.
Under the city's contract, RedSpeed receives $13 for every $40 citation issued in Annapolis, with the rest going to the city's general fund.
Ely said the city needs to address "secretive" language included in the contract with RedSpeed. Among other requirements, the contract says the city "shall not disclose any information that RedSpeed deems confidential, in the event any third party requests documents containing confidential Information, exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act."
The contract also says that if a third party requests information and the city does not disclose information "solely at RedSpeed's request," the Illinois-based firm will go as far as to pay the city for any "costs, expenses, legal fees or fines or damages awards granted to any such third party under MPIA or otherwise."
"That seems like an extremely restrictive clause in there," Ely said. "And I think the question would be why the city would include such a sweeping secrecy clause in there."