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No action on red light camera settlement yet

Going, going...

Houston City Council voted to wait two weeks before deciding whether or not to accept the settlement agreement with camera vendor ATS.

The City Council on Wednesday delayed approval of a $4.8 million settlement with its red-light camera vendor amid questions about the effect of an appeals court ruling that lets two Houston lawyers intervene in the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that brothers Michael and Randy Kubosh should be allowed to join in the lawsuit.

Though the city and American Traffic Solutions plan to ask for the case to be dismissed if the settlement is approved by City Council, the Kuboshes said they want to keep the case alive to overturn a judge’s ruling that invalidated the November 2010 charter referendum they organized to ban the use of cameras in Houston. Their attorney also argued in a hearing after Wednesday’s council meeting that the Kuboshes should have standing in the contract dispute. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes granted them a hearing on Feb. 6 to make their case.

Should the judge allow the Kuboshes to intervene in the contract dispute, City Attorney David Feldman said, he will not bring the settlement back to the council on Feb. 8 as planned.

“I’m not walking into quicksand,” Feldman said. The Kuboshes’ intervention could undermine any deal the city reaches with ATS, he said.

Feldman says that dismissing the suit would wipe away the ruling that invalidated the election; the Kuboshes disagree. They want it enshrined in the charter that cameras can’t be put up again without a popular vote. The city and ATS say that’s already the case, and besides, changes to state law enacted after the city installed its cameras would make re-installing them more onerous and expensive to do. I’m not a lawyer, I’ll let the courts sort all this out, but I do want to comment on this:

David Furlow, an attorney for the Kuboshes, said in an interview following Tuesday’s Council meeting, “The real issue is vindication of the people’s constitutionally protected right to vote.” In Furlow’s view, Hughes has ruled that a local ordinance trumps state constitutional rights. The people’s right to challenge an ordinance should last more than a month, Furlow said.

I don’t necessarily disagree with that. Seems to me the way to address the issue is with a charter amendment. Surely that’s preferable to taking your chances with a judge. Houston Politics has more.

Anyway. We’ll see what happens with the hearing in Judge Hughes’ court. In the meantime, since I brought up the question of how much money the city currently has in the escrow account that holds previously collected fines, I heard back on my inquiry to the Mayor’s office. According to them there is now about $3 million in that escrow account, meaning that the up front payment and most of the first year’s payment after that are covered. The city – presumably, an agent on their behalf – would take over collection duties from ATS. We’ll see how that goes.

Finally, in red light camera news elsewhere, League City residents will vote on whether or not to extend that city’s contract with a red light camera company. The contract runs through 2014, and a proposition about it will be “in the next special municipal election”, whenever that is. Red light opponents have a pretty good track record in these elections, and I’m sure they will be gunning for this one as well.

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10 Comments

  1. Jj says:

    Speaking of collecting unpaid fines, how is Annise’s Collection Task Force doing now that they have had 9+ months to collect that $800 million or whatever it was? Her roll-out of the program made it sound like Bill White had been completely incompetent in the area but she would solve all the city’s budget woes by simply picking all that cash up off the floor, because it was just lying right there! Haven’t heard a peep since… Pretty sure she never reported back to City Council either…

  2. joshua bullard says:

    The mayor has let me down on this issue,again,i have asked the mayor and feldman to stand down on this issue and settle this issue in the requested format presented by the kubosh brothers,it is sad that the mayor and feldman continue to spend our tax dollars on an issue the people do not support them on,mayor-feldman,joinder with the kubosh brothers and bring this issue to a close in the mannor you should have done years ago-we have no time for 1990 politics.

    damn it mayor parker

    dont drag this issue threw 2012

    joshua ben bullard

  3. Houstonian says:

    Joshua, seems to me it’s the Kubosh brothers keeping things drug out. Otherwise, once council approves the settlement, it’s over.

  4. Doris Murdock says:

    Looks to me like the aptly-named Kuboshes have a potential financial motivation in keeping this thing alive and inserting themselves into the process.

  5. WrongOnRed says:

    Ask yourself, “Quo Bene?” Who benefits from the settlement actions? Why would the City of Houston rush head long into a 4 million dollar settlement? A settlement which at the moment is completely unnecessary given the fact that there is still a question of whether the ballot measure was indeed valid? Why rush into it unless require by the court? Is it because after the 5th Circuit Appellate ruling that the Kuboshes are now privy to discovery, and the settlement is an attempt to close the suit before they have access to the communications between ATS and the City of Houston? Is it because if this is litigated to its conclusion, that it will be open season on the American Traffic Solutions and Redflex scamera systems in the 5th Circuit? Texas is one of the huge profit centers for the scamera industry and such a ruling would place every scamera system they have installed in jeopardy of a citizen referendum. Both the City of Houston and ATS have a lot to gain from selfish ulterior motives by rushing a settlement. It certainly is not in the interest of the taxpayer as they would fund the 4 million unnecessarily, but perhaps Houston’s elected officials have decided that paying 4 million of your dollars is worth the price of preventing their collusion with American traffic Solutions from being exposed through discovery. Residents of Houston should be hitting the streets with torches and pitchforks over this.

  6. WrongOnRed says:

    Make that Qui Bene…..

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    JJ…I only know of one example but I am sure there is more. Mayor White signed a horrible deal with Linebarger and that gives them a huge amount of money from the Municipal Court for nothing that I can see. They get a large % of all court costs as late fees for doing nothing. I don’t know if Parker renewed this contract or not.

    Joshua…my family is not the only ones who are upset with the Mayor. She more voters then she can count. I do not think it would be hard to rally them to change the power structure of the City of Houston once and for all.

    Houstonian…the 5th Circuit agreed with us and held that the State was not adequately representing our interest. That interest being the survival of the elections results. That is further manifested in the City’s settlement of the lawsuit without the appeal of the Charter Amendment ruling. If the City isn’t going to appeal it them someone has to. We didn’t do all of this for nothing. Like the Cameras or hate them, hate me or like me, it doesn’t matter. We had an election and the City is charged with defending that election. The 5th Cirucuit Panel concluded that the City’s defense was inadequate. Don’t be mad at me for that. This was Feldman’s doing.

    Doris…Financial Motive? That argument didn’t hold water during the election and it probably want now. I believe everyone who paid attention to the election has heard that one.

    Wrong…Obviously I agree with you.

    District Court update….We had our first Conference now that we are officially parties to the lawsuit. Needless to say Hughes is not happy. I expect this whole thing to be litigated in the 5th Circuit. Also I do not expect Hughes to vacate his order on the election. Further more A.T.S. said they will never agree to it either. They want to hold the Huges Judgement and the money from the City of Houston as a trophy so show what would happen to any City that would dare to allow citizens to vote. It is my goal to stop them.

    Kuff…I know we disagree on the cameras, election, Mayor Parker, etc. That being said I still appreciate the forum. It is good reading even though there some days I cannot comment.

  8. robert kane says:

    I wish there was a like button :-)

  9. Paul Kubosh says:

    I got an update. Looks like they now want to settle for 1.9 million. If we wait another week maybe A.T.S. pays the City. Truth of the matter is A.T.S. needs that F.Supp opinion saying the election is invalid. Wonder what made them agree to take less?

  10. […] here for previous discussion. Basically, it’s up to the efforts of the fine collectors to ensure […]

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