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Red light cameras to be turned off Monday

This was unexpected.

This week, officials with American Traffic Solutions Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., received a letter dated Nov. 10 from city attorney David Feldman, who reversed his previous opinion that the contract requires Houston to give ATS a 120-day notice before the cameras are switched off.

Now, Feldman informed ATS it must shut down the system at 10.a.m. Monday if the City Council canvasses the results of the Nov. 2 election when 53 percent of Houston residents voted to end use of the cameras. The Proposition 3 measure passed the same day Baytown residents passed an ordinance effectively ending the ATS red-light camera operation in that city.

George Hittner, vice president and general counsel of the Arizona-based firm, said Friday the company has many questions about the mechanics of ending Houston’s contract but it hopes to avoid a court battle.

“There are a lot of things the city and ATS has to work out contractually, but the city has asked us to turn off the cameras as of Monday morning … and we’ve agreed to that request,“ Hittner said. “The city has been a great partner with ATS, and just because there are a few things that remain to be resolved doesn’t mean we don’t want to honor the positive relations we’ve had with them the last three and a half years.“

[…]

Hittner said ATS’ contract does not have allow the city to immediately terminate the deal, as City Hall now proposes. “It’s our contention that the termination letter we received from the city is not consistent with what the city has available under the contract,“ said Hittner, a former Houston resident who unsuccessfully ran for City Council.

“Our costs were in the millions of dollars for this contract. As far as recouping our costs, we don’t think that will ever happen,“ Hittner said.

Mayor Annise Parker, who has said the Houston Police Department will lose $10 million annually in revenue if the cameras are taken down, issued a brief statement Friday afternoon on the issue: “We have indicated since the election that there are legalities to work out and this is just part of that process. Once City Council canvasses the votes for all three propositions on Monday, we will announce our next steps.”

That’s a pretty big reversal, and I wonder what was the impetus for it. I favor whatever approach minimizes the city’s costs and legal exposure. We’ll see if ATS takes its lumps and goes home or files a breach of contract suit.

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3 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    ATS will not file a breach of contract suit. If they do then they just add fuel to the fire when the legislature takes up the issue.

  2. Kenneth Fair says:

    Illegality is a standard defense to a breach of contract suit.

  3. Kenneth Fair says:

    By “illegality,” I mean that the contract was either illegal to begin with or became illegal to perform before its completion.