The city of Chicago has sued its former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds that the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions, reports the Chicago Tribune. The embattled program, which has raised more than $500 million in traffic fines since it began in 2003, has been beset with oversight failures, unfair ticketing practices and corruption allegations. Redflex’s former chief executive, Karen Finley, pleaded guilty Aug. 20 in a conspiracy to bribe John Bills, a former top city transportation executive, who she says helped steer the contract to the company. Bills is set to stand trial in federal court in January.
The lawsuit details an alleged conspiracy in which Redflex executives teamed up with Bills to funnel cash payments to him through a consultant acting as a bagman, as well as providing Bills with vacation trips, computers, golf outings and other perks. In exchange, according to the lawsuit, Bills coached Redflex on how to beat its competitors, orchestrated key votes at City Hall, manipulated field tests to favor the company, covered up problems with Redflex’s performance and cost taxpayers millions by encouraging city officials to buy Redflex cameras instead of leasing them.