City Councilman James B. Kraft says he's hired two investigators to help complete a City Council probe of Baltimore's troubled speed camera system.
Two paralegals -– who are paid $32 and $26 per hour, respectively –- from the Robert Half Legal staffing firm began work last week reviewing thousands of documents that the Rawlings-Blake administration turned over to Kraft's committee.
"The mayor has approved the money for two full-time investigators for up to three months," Kraft said.
A City Council committee is investigating the work of former Baltimore speed camera contractors Xerox State & Local Solutions and Brekford Corp., but that probe had stalled as Kraft said he needs to hire staff to go through the voluminous documents turned over to him.
Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said she authorized the funds for the investigation from the finance department's budget for legal services. He said if the cost of paying the for the investigation exceeds $25,000, the city will bring the contracts before the Board of Estimates for approval.
"We're not fighting this process at all," he said. "We understand people have concerns. We understand people have questions, and we want to answer those questions."
Harris said the administration wants to see a "very robust and thorough" investigation.
"That type of discussion is necessary before we can make a determination as an administration to move forward with a new program," he said. "Even as the speed cameras are down, we continue to hear from people who want the speed cameras to come back. If we're going to bring them back, we want to bring the program back the right way."
The city's speed camera system has been shut down for more than a year following The Baltimore Sun's revelations about erroneous tickets. The Sun investigation found errors at many cameras, including tickets issued for slow-moving or stopped cars. When operating, the network of 83 speed cameras and 81 red-light cameras brought more than $140 million to city government through $40 speed camera citations given out in school zones and $75 red light camera tickets.
An audit of Xerox's cameras showed some had double-digit error rates and tests of Brekford's system disclosed widespread problems.
Three speed camera companies have registered lobbyists with the city in an attempt to win the rights to run the camera system when the city resurrects it. Harris has said the administration is waiting for the City Council to complete an investigation of Baltimore's camera problems before requesting new bids.