‘Legal issues’ cited as more Providence speed camera tickets dismissed

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence’s law department again agreed to dismiss a batch of school-zone speed camera violations that were scheduled for trial last week as officials work to address questions raised by the city’s Municipal Court judges.

The city has now tossed out at least 38 tickets since Feb. 21, citing a range of reasons that included a representative from the company that manages the 15 speed cameras not appearing in court, jurisdiction issues and a police officer’s retirement.

The bulk of the tickets dismissed on Feb. 28 were because Conduent State & Local Solutions Inc. did not send an employee to discuss how the cameras are calibrated.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare initially told Eyewitness News an attorney for the city made a “mistake” when he agreed to dismiss tickets on Feb. 21, but he later said he was wrong to cast blame on a single lawyer.

“With respect to the prosecution of speeding tickets in Municipal Court Feb. 21, it was absolutely appropriate for assistant city solicitor Noah Kilroy to agree to their dismissal and his actions were consistent with the law department’s guidance in those matters,” Pare said in a prepared statement. “As such, the violators who appeared in court on Feb. 28 also had their tickets dismissed while the city explores the reasons cited during trial.”

Pare continued: “After further review, I was wrong for placing any blame or fault on attorney Kilroy publicly. This speed program is new to the city and we need to work through the legal issues to ensure we meet all the requirements of due process and fairness.”

Pare and city solicitor Jeffrey Dana have both said they do not believe the city should be dismissing tickets based on questions of judication or because a retired officer can no longer testify that they reviewed the alleged speeding violation, but Dana acknowledged the city is reviewing whether Conduent needs to attend trials. He said the city has a difference of opinion with the city’s three local judges.

“I stand by attorney Kilroy’s actions in Municipal Court on Feb. 21,” Dana said. “The city is currently evaluating whether or not Conduent will be asked to appear before our court to testify on these cases and the police department is in the process of having an alternative officer review any violations the recently retired officer had confirmed.”

The city pays Conduent $7.90 for every violation issued no matter the outcome in Municipal Court. The company is also paid $3,573 per month for each of the 15 active speed cameras. The company billed the city $1.3 million in 2018.

Providence issued 63,000 speed camera violations in 2018, taking advantage of a relatively new state law that that allows cities and towns to install traffic cameras within a quarter-mile of any type of school and fine all drivers caught traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

The city initially charged violators $95 per ticket, but state lawmakers intervened to lower the price to $50. City officials also agreed to partially refund thousands of drivers after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed challenging various aspects of the program.

Anyone who receives a speed camera ticket is allowed to challenge the violation in Municipal Court, although the court delayed trials throughout 2018 because of the class-action lawsuit.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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