PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of Providence has renegotiated its deal with speed camera operator Conduent, after the city treasurer withheld funds to the company and the City Council raised objections to changes made without council approval.
If approved, the new deal would save city taxpayers “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to City Solicitor Jeff Dana. But members of the City Council Finance Committee were skeptical of a provision to add five more school-zone speed cameras, and voted to continue the matter rather than approving the new contract Thursday night.
The city renegotiated the deal with Conduent at the request of the council, after some councilors accused Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration of unilaterally signing a new deal with Conduent last year.
Those 2018 changes, which were not approved by the Board of Contract and Supply or the City Council, were prompted by a new state law that essentially nullified certain aspects of the old contract. The changes cost taxpayers more than $180,000, according to City Treasurer James Lombardi.
Lombardi revealed in November that he had been withholding checks to Conduent because the 2018 contract amendment wasn’t approved through the proper channels. He said he later released the money.
The 2018 amendment raised the per-violation fee the city was paying to Conduent from $7.40 to $7.90, and also started paying Conduent for warning tickets during a 30-day probationary period for each camera location. The probationary period was mandated by the new state law.
The new deal reached between the city and Conduent would bring the fee back to $7.40 per $50 ticket and stop paying the company for warning tickets, where the driver isn’t charged anything. It also stops paying Conduent the per-camera monthly fee of $2,978 during the months of July and August, when school is not in session.
“This is a great thing and it looks like you’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city,” said Lombardi, who is also an adviser to the City Council. “But the unilateral signing of the contract cost the taxpayers $180,000.”
“Why are we not asking for some kind of reimbursement?” Councilman James Taylor asked Dana.
Dana said it was the opinion of the law department in September that the new contract was properly executed.
He also pointed out that Conduent lost significant revenue due to the change in state law, which limited the hours of operation of the cameras.
Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, the committee’s vice-chair, said she didn’t support adding five new cameras, which would bring the total number of speed cameras to 20.
“I’m disappointed in the way this was handled,” Ryan said. “I understand mistakes are made, but this one cost the taxpayers.”
She said she wants the city to continue negotiating with Conduent and attempt to recover funds that were paid to the company as a result of the unapproved contract amendment.
The speed cameras had a controversial start last year when the city started issuing fines without warning, and were ticketing drivers for speeding in school zones even when class was not in session at night and on weekends.
A class-action lawsuit settlement resulted in partial refunds for drivers who received tickets in the initial months of the speed cameras.
Conduent also operates the city’s 25 red light cameras.