Judge holds Ohio Village of Elmwood Place and the company it hired to monitor cameras in contempt of court for violating his earlier order.
CINCINNATI — A judge found Elmwood Place, Ohio, and the company it hired in contempt of court Thursday because the village continued operating its speeding cameras and collecting fines even after the judge ordered the program shut down.
“Any money that was collected after my order has to be returned,” Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled Thursday.
Ruehlman ruled March 7 that the 2012 Elmwood Place ordinance that allowed cameras and other equipment to be used to measure the speed of cars and ticket speeders without pulling them over was unconstitutional. At that time, he ordered a stop to the speeding camera program the Cincinnati suburb was using. The program brought the village more than $1 million while it operated.
Still, Lanham, Md.-based Optotraffic LLC, the company that runs the speed camera program for Elmwood Place, continued to issue citations, run the equipment and collect fines. Elmwood Place received 60% of the revenue from those fines.
“They continued to operate the equipment after I ordered them not to,” the judge said, citing both Optotraffic and Elmwood Place with contempt of court. He also ordered the cameras and equipment confiscated.
They can clear that contempt, the judge added, by repaying $48,500 in speeding fines collected after his order and removing the traffic cameras.
“They flagrantly violated Judge Ruehlman’s order. I think his response was extremely appropriate. He could have done a lot more,” said Mike Allen, the attorney representing private citizens who sued the village of 2,200 over the speeding camera program.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have speed cameras operating in at least one location, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Ohio has 13 other jurisdictions that use them, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.
A dozen states have laws prohibiting them.
Ruehlman’s ruling comes a day after Ohio lawmakers approved a measure that would bar local governments across the state from using cameras to determine whether motorists have run red lights or been speeding.
Members of the House voted 61-32 on Wednesday to move the measure to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Rep. Ron Maag sponsored the proposal. The Republican from Lebanon, Ohio, said the main goal of the cameras is not to increase public safety but to generate revenue for local governments.
Those who want law enforcement to continue monitoring drivers using the cameras say the technology prevents accidents and saves lives. The bill includes an exemption for school zones.
Elmwood Place, located between Interstate 71 and I-75, hired a private company that, starting in 2012, used the cameras to record speeders and send them $105 speeding tickets in the mail.