You may recall that when the city settled its lawsuit with red light camera vendor ATS, they agreed to pay a certain amount of money that would be generated by collecting still-unpaid red light camera fines. Ted Oberg has an update on how that effort is going.
After Houston voters told Mayor Annise Parker to take the cameras down in 2010, the city settled with the camera company for $4.8 million.
The mayor told Houstonians the money to fill that pot would come from unpaid fines. The city had $3 million in the bank from those who’ve already paid, which was a start. That money brought the settlement down to $1.8 million. But now, the city needs to collect nearly $53,000 every month until the end of 2014 to make up the difference.
The first month the city was just $111 short. The second month, they were short by $18,000 from what they needed to collect.
This month is off to a better start with half the money already in, so they may finally meet the goal for the first time.
The city’s sent thousands of letters to people who haven’t paid bills all across the country and seems confident that after years of ignoring the bills, the citizens will now start paying.
“We’re not ready to say we’re not going to meet that goal because of the steps that we’re taking. We’re going to start with Phase One, which is mailing a reminder that you have this debt that is owed to the city; after that, we’ll take the next step and we’ll turn it over to the credit bureau. And then in the most extreme cases, we’ll consider the possibility of filing a lawsuit,” Parker’s spokeswoman Janice Evans said.
The city can send the debt to credit bureaus and will file some lawsuits for big debtors, but the law won’t allow them to send it to a collection agency or put holds on registrations.
Actually, the law does allow for holds to be put on registrations, but it’s the county that handles those, and they have not agreed to play along. Which has not stopped the city from acting as if they do. I don’t expect it will get any easier from here, so I figure it’s just a matter of time before some lawsuits get filed.