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CHICAGO, IL—The company hired by the City of New Brunswick to install and operate two red light cameras is again under scrutiny, as a federal grand jury indicted its former CEO Karen Finley in an ongoing bribery investigation.
The indictment stems from Redflex allegedly bribing a Chicago city official in order to gain lucrative contracts installing, operating, and maintaining what became the nation’s largest red light camera system.
Finley was leading the company in 2009 when New Brunswick chose to hire Redflex, which is based in Australia and has their US headquarters in Arizona. She left the company earlier this year.
The grand jury voted to approve bribery and indictments against Finley, independent contractor Martin O’Malley, and John Bills, who worked for the City of Chicago for more than three decades before he left to work for Redflex.
Bills was Managing Deputy Commisioner for Chicago’s Department of Transportation, and the official in charge of the City’s red light camera program.
In exchange for his help steering the contract to Redflex, the company an unanmed subcontractor at Bills’ request, according to the indictment.
According to the indictment, Bills misled members of a committee charged with selecting a company to run the city’s red light cameras and helped steer a city contract to Redflex, for which he was handsomely rewarded.
During the city’s search for a red light camera vendor, Bills hand-picked select photographs that only showed Redflex cameras being accurate while showing competitor photos as being inaccurate. Bills led the committee members to believe the photos as being randomly selected.
Bills also allegedly, “wrote out name placards for each member of the committee and arranged the seating in a particular way to control the voting order so that committee members Bills knew would support Redflex would vote first, and these votes would influence the members who would vote later in the process.”
Bills then negotiated with Finley to hire his personal friend Martin O’Malley as an independent contractor for Redflex, according to the indictment. O’Malley allegedly served as the pipeline for money from Redflex to Bills.
Finley, originally the Vice President of Operations at Redflex and then later the Chief Executive Officer, also provided Bills with personal financial benefits, including meals, hotel stays, rental cars and golf outings, according to the indictment.
Finley allegedly “admonished” an employee who discussed the “scheme” in writing and advised that she “was deleting her e-mails,” according to the indictment.
“The alleged confluence of corrupt local officials and corrupt corporate officers demands a counterweight of local and federal authorities working to redeem the frayed confidence of the public,” said Chicago’s Inspector General Joseph Ferguson in a joint press release with the U.S. Attorney’s office announcing the indictments.
O’Malley was paid over $2 million during his employment with Redflex, with most of the money coming from a negotiated commission for every traffic camera installed in Chicago.
O’Malley would withdraw cash from his bank account in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $11,000 and give it to John Bills, approximately $570,000 in cash.
After Bills retired from public service in 2011, he sought employment from Redflex in 2011 and was given a job in a nonprofit run by Redflex, who increased their donations to the nonprofit to compensate for Bills’ salary.
Aaron Rosenberg, a former salesman for the company, accused Redflex of giving inappropriate bribes and gifts “at dozens of municipalities” in 14 states, including New Jersey.
In light of these revelations, State Senator Michael Doherty called on New Jersey to investigate Redflex’s business practices in New Jersey.
Doherty told newspapers, “I call on the Attorney General to investigate the claims of Aaron Rosenberg that Redflex engaged in bribery in New Jersey to secure contracts for its red light camera systems.”
New Brunswick’s elected officials have not responded to multiple inquiries about the indictments and whether or not bribery was involved in their decision to hire Redflex several years ago.
Mitch Karon, head of the city’s Parking Authority and Traffic Commission, was the only official to respond to our inquiries, saying that in February 2009, the Traffic Commission “was advised by NBPD that New Brunswick was selected as a test site for red light camera and that the camera will be placed at the intersection of Park and Easton.”
New Brunswick’s own red light camera system has come under fire after data analysis showed a slight increase in accidents at the intersection which it was placed.
Officials said that they will take the camera down later this year to accomodate a county road construction project and whether it is re-installed will depend on whether state legislators decide to renew the five-year pilot program, which expires in December.