A major speed and red light camera company is lobbying city government to take over the city's once-lucrative traffic camera system, records show.
Throughout 2013, Arizona-based speed camera firm American Traffic Solutions Inc. spent $25,000 lobbying city government in hopes of winning a new traffic camera contract after the city shut the system down in April amid accuracy concerns.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said she intends to restart the system, which was once North America's largest, this year.
ATS paid $12,000 to lobbyist Aaron Greenfield; $6,000 to his business partner William Kress; and $7,000 to Frank D. Boston III, during 2013.
Boston facilitated a meeting with ATS and deputy mayor Khalil Zaied, who oversees the speed camera operations, in December, according to emails obtained by The Sun in a public information request. He tried unsuccessfully to get a second meeting with deputy mayor Kaliope Parthemos, who is in charge of economic development.
“I do not need to meet with them. Khalil is the appropriate person,” Parthemos responded by email.
“Come on Kali... Show me some love,” Boston responded. “Everyone says you're the key person to talk to on this issue. It would be good for me to have you meet the client even [if] it's a ten minute hello. These guys are the real deal.”
ATS spokesman Charles Territo said the lobbying is part of an effort to win a speed and red light camera contract in Baltimore. He said the firm could improve camera operations in Baltimore, noting the troubles with erroneous tickets issued under previous vendors Xerox State & Local Solutions and Brekford Corp.
An audit of Xerox's cameras showed some had double-digit error rates, and tests of Brekford's system disclosed widespread problems.
“ATS is the largest red-light and speed safety camera company in the U.S. and the program provider of choice for several Maryland communities,” Territo said. “Given the public nature of the previous vendors failures we feel it is important to offer our perspective on the elements of a successful road safety camera program.”
ATS has also had issues with its cameras. According to the Associated Press, the company agreed to pay $4.2 million to New Jersey motorists to settle a lawsuit over alleging problems with its red light cameras. In 2011, officials in Canada returned about $13 million in speeding fines issued by a single faulty ATS camera, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Territo said the issues in those jurisdictions "had nothing to do with our technology."
Competitor Xerox State & Local Solutions has retained Baltimore's top lobbying firm Harris Jones & Malone during 2013, but reported no payments to the lobbyists.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this post.