Since 2012, the Illinois Comptroller’s office has served as a collection agency for communities trying to get motorists to pay their red-light tickets. The comptroller’s tool is to deduct the amount owed in outstanding tickets from state-income tax refunds due to the violators and forwarding most of the take to the towns. About $11 million was collected this way on behalf of 60 Chicago suburbs last year. With federal investigators looking into red-light contractor SafeSpeed over allegations of pay-to-play — amid revelations about politically connected sales representatives for the company landing juicy commissions — Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said her agency will no longer perform this function, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. “The comptroller’s office isn’t going to be in the business” of helping “a program that’s broken and morally corrupt,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza encourages any town with red-light cameras to think about whether they should keep them. “They should revisit their programs entirely,” she said. “I don’t think it’s good public policy and I think it’s time it ends.” Months of headlines about the ongoing federal corruption investigation and SafeSpeed led to the decision to stop collections, effective Feb. 6. Mendoza said it’s clear to her that red-light cameras aren’t solely about safety but are about squeezing money out of motorists. “It’s more of a money angle,” she said. It’s “a system open to corruption.” Drivers hit with the tickets — which can cost $100 apiece and compound if not paid in a timely way — are too often poor and unable to afford them, Mendoza said. SafeSpeed co-CEO Nikki Zollar has denied the company enlisted payoffs or did anything wrong, and nobody from the business has been charged with a crime.