By Derrick Perkins
City officials are reviewing their relationship with embattled red-light camera operator Redflex Traffic Systems but maintain the company did not engage in bribery in Alexandria.
Australian-based Redflex, which runs Alexandria’s red-light cameras, is accused of paying off a Chicago official as the enforcement program rapidly expanded in the Windy City. An independent investigation — launched after the Chicago Tribune first raised the bribery allegations last year — revealed company employees likely funneled as much as $2 million, including gifts and travel expenses, to the official overseeing the program.
The scheme, possibly Chicago’s largest ever bribery scandal, prompted Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to cut ties with the company and prevent it from bidding for the city’s upcoming speed camera contract. Chicago, with more than 380 red-light cameras, represents one of Redflex’s largest accounts.
By contrast, Alexandria possesses only three cameras — at the intersections of South Patrick and Franklin; South Patrick and Gibbon; and Gibbon and Duke streets — but the revelations propelled officials to investigate their ties with the Australian firm.
“I’m confident [bribery] did not occur,” said Deputy City Attorney Chris Spera. “Our review did not show any red flags.”
The internal audit included re-examining the procurement process, which began in 2010, and ensuring employees involved in contract negotiations with Redflex did not receive financial compensation from the company.
Oversight from Richmond likely provided another bulwark against possible bribery, Spera said. Localities must prove a red-light camera is warranted at a given intersection before receiving approval from the state Transportation Department.
“We obviously comply with the state procurement procedures, and in addition, there is this safeguard built into the state red-light camera laws that requires there be a need for the camera — independently verified [by VDOT],” Spera said.
Aaron Rosenberg, the former Redflex vice president blamed for the Chicago scheme, did sign off on the agreement between Alexandria and the company. But he had no part in discussions between city staff and Redflex employees, Spera said.
Redflex has since slapped Rosenberg, who was fired last month, with a lawsuit.
Still, the police department, which oversees the red-light camera program, is reviewing Redflex to ensure there’s no drop-off in service following the revelations in Chicago, Spera said.
“The question has become: Has this scandal so weakened the company that they might not be able to provide the services going forward?” he said.
There are no immediate plans to jettison Redflex, said city spokesman Tony Castrilli.