Judge throws out class-action suit against Md. speed cameras

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Local,Transportation,Hayley Peterson

A Circuit Court judge has dismissed a two-year-old class-action lawsuit against speed cameras in Montgomery County and three Maryland cities.

Judge David Boynton ruled in favor of Montgomery, Rockville, Chevy Chase Village and Gaithersburg on Tuesday, calling off a two-week trial set to begin July 12.

Bowie lawyer Timothy Leahy filed suit in May 2008 saying the jurisdictions have been operating their speed camera programs illegally by paying their camera contractors on a per-ticket basis.

In March 2009, Boynton permitted Leahy to pursue the claim as a class-action suit -- involving anyone who has received a ticket from Montgomery's cameras.

Montgomery gives 40 percent of its ticket revenues -- or $16.25 per ticket -- to its contractor, Affiliated Computer Services. Maryland law prohibits per-ticket payments to camera operators to avoid financial incentive for issuing more tickets.

Boynton ruled in each case that the jurisdictions, rather than the camera contractors, operate the systems.

"The message is clear," said Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. "Slow down."

He said the county had been confident it would prevail.

"We're the operators of the system because we are the final authority when a citation is issued," he said. Montgomery generates about $1.2 million in camera ticket revenue per month.

Montgomery's contract with ACS says the compensation rate is based on ACS providing "digital speed camera vehicles, equipment and personnel to service the technology six days a week for two eight-hour shifts per day."

ACS also is responsible for recording, printing and mailing citations as well as collecting ticket payments.

After two ACS employees verify a camera ticket and accompanying license plate photo, a police officer in the relevant jurisdiction will approve the citation for ACS to print and mail, according to the contract.

Leahy declined to comment following Boynton's ruling Wednesday.

Lacefield said the speed camera program in Montgomery won't be swayed by a legal challenge.

"There is broad public support for speed cameras," he said. "If people don't like tickets they should slow down."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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