NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Brunswick's only red light camera, at the corner of Easton Avenue and Park Boulevard, has been operated by an embattled Australian company recently accused of widespread bribery.
The most shocking revelations about RedFlex Systems, came to light last week when a former salesman at the company filed a defamation lawsuit claiming, "RedFlex Board members admitted to engaging in and providing governmental officials with lavish gifts and bribes."
The company fired that salesman, Aaron Rosenberg, and four other high-ranking officials in February 2013, after the Chicago Tribune's David Kidwell reported on improper and unethical gifts given to a public official in the City of Chicago, Redflex's biggest client.
According to Rosenberg's suit, the company's CEO and board approved of the bribes and included $2 million in the company budget for "Entertainment," including golf outings with government officials, trips to the Super Bowl, , as well as "celebratory tokens," which were gifts.
While a suit filed by RedFlex says that the fired individuals were engaged in a "secret scheme" to bribe officials, Rosenberg's countersuit alleges that the bribery was widespread and endorsed by the company's top brass. The suit names thirteen states, including New Jersey, where bribes were allegedly doled out to public officials.
The legal papers filed in Maricopa County Courthouse do not specify whether the bribes were given to state or local officials, or both. In 2009, the state legislature approved a pilot program to test red light cameras in New Jersey, and it was signed into law by then-Governor Jon Corzine.
The scandal cost RedFlex their contract with the Windy City, valued at over $100 million. And their damaged reputation also hindered their ability to sell new red light camera systems in other communities. But, to date, New Brunswick has not revisited their arrangement with RedFlex.
In 2009, when the City Council approved the installation of the camera, then-Council President Betsy Garlatti said she was in favor of the idea.
"It's a pilot program, so we will be evaluating the result of that program to see if that's something we want to continue in this community, and obviously the police director will play a large role in that evaluation since safety is our prime concern," Garlatti told the Daily Targum.
Now entering the final year of a five-year statewide pilot program, New Brunswick's red light camera is likely to come under increased scrutiny. Meanwhile, the New Brunswick city government has not responded to requests for comment on the RedFlex scandal.
In its first three years of operation, the camera has brought in more than $1 million to balance the city budget:
- 2010: $50,886.00
- 2011: $515,102.25
- 2013: $430,000 (anticipated)
It is unclear exactly how much money RedFlex has made from the New Brunswick camera, which has continuously been ticketing drivers since September 2010. Ticketed motorists almost always end up paying the $85 fine.
Just a few months after the bribery scandal was revealed, the company paid $2.1 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving red light cameras in five New Jersey municipalities, including Edison.
The class action lawsuit alleged that RedFlex never participated in an initial traffic study as required by New Jersey law. The settlement resulted in ticketed motorists receiving a 10% refund on the $85 tickets.
According to a report on NJ.com, an attorney representing drivers who were ticketed by RedFlex cameras argued that "officials failed to conduct an initial traffic study in areas red light cameras would be placed, and then failed yet again to maintain regular six-month inspections."
However, it is still unclear whether or not the initial traffic study required by the New Jersey pilot program was ever conducted at the intersection of Easton Avenue and Park Blvd.
New Brunswick officials have not been able to identify any traffic studies done on the intersection, before or after the camera was installed.
Under questioning from the late Charles Renda at a June 2012 City Council meeting, then-Leuitenant J.T. Miller, now a Captain in the New Brunswick Police Department, said, "As far as accidents… I don’t think a [traffic] study has been done."
That same month, the state government suspended most of the state's 83 red light cameras for failures to meet the requirements of the red light camera program. But the Easton Avenue camera was not among them, as we reported at the time.
City Engineer Tom Guldin confirmed earlier this month that his office never conducted a traffic study on the intersection in question and he was unaware of anyone who did.