Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Florida Supreme Court: Early red-light cameras were illegal

RECOMMENDED READING


The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that more than a dozen local governments — including several in the Tampa Bay area — illegally established red-light camera programs by installing the devices prior to the Legislature approving them in 2010.

Though some lawyers involved in red-light camera litigation believe the ruling should result in millions of dollars in refund checks, they cautioned that motorists shouldn't expect that to happen without a fight.

"There will absolutely have to be litigation filed," said Luke Lirot, a Clearwater lawyer whose firm represents ticketed drivers. "It wouldn't be a difficult court order to get based on this Supreme Court precedent, but absent a court order, I don't see any municipality voluntarily giving back a dime of that money."

In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, Brooksville and Port Richey used red-light cameras before the Legislature approved their usage statewide with a law that took effect July 1, 2010.

The court ruled 5-2 Thursday that local governments were not allowed to enact their own traffic enforcement ordinances at the time because it conflicted with the state's uniform traffic code. But the court didn't order a refund of fines collected and the dispute is expected to continue.

Officials with local governments affected by the ruling said they were reviewing it. The fines collected during that time are in the millions of dollars.

Temple Terrace installed three cameras in October 2008 and generated $1.4 million in fines between then and November 2009. City spokesman Michael Dunn said he would have no comment "until our legal counsel has had an opportunity to review the court's decision."

Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill also said he would need time to review it. The cameras in Port Richey generated nearly $1.2 million from May 2008 to December 2010.

None of the six Pinellas County municipalities that have cameras need to worry about giving back money. Clearwater, Kenneth City, Gulfport, Oldsmar, South Pasadena and St. Petersburg all went live after the state law took effect. The same goes for Tampa cameras.

Hillsborough County began collecting fines from cameras at six intersections in late December 2009. Officials could not say how much money the cameras generated before July 2010.

"We are in the process of reviewing the Supreme Court of Florida's opinion . . . to determine its applicability, if any, to the county's original 2009 red-light camera ordinance," said Andrea Roshaven, a county spokeswoman.

In 2012, red-light camera operator American Traffic Solutions of Tempe, Ariz., paid $1.2 million to settle all claims related to its involvement with 26 Florida clients that operated red-light camera systems before the July 2010 enactment of the law.

"We felt that, at the time, it was an opportunity to put the issue behind us and move on," ATS spokesman Charles Territo said Thursday. Most of ATS's customers settled, too, he said, but a handful decided to stay in the case. He said he did not know whether those clients included any in the Tampa Bay area.

The decision Thursday came after red-light cameras in Orlando and Aventura were challenged and two appeals courts had conflicting opinions.

Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs said her office plans to return fines only to drivers who disputed their red-light camera tickets, but not to those who willingly paid them. She estimated that Orlando would have to return about $100,000 of the $4.3 million the city collected during that time.

Attorney David Kerner said all of those ticketed should get refunds — not just those who appealed.

"The Supreme Court has said the money they collected was collected unlawfully," said Kerner, of the West Palm Beach firm that sued Orlando and others over the cameras.

Kerner said his firm will try to obtain class-action status. If successful, it could mean refunds for everyone who was ticketed before the state law's adoption, except for those cited by cities that have settled, he said.

Times staff writers Zack Peterson, Richard Danielson, Will Hobson, Tony Marrero and Logan Neill and correspondent Robert Napper contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press and Orlando Sentinel.

Comments
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 25 minutes ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Police: Family hit on Dale Mabry Highway in stable condition

TAMPA — The mother and two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were all in stable condition by Thanksgiving morning, said Tampa police. Investigators said the family is not originally from the Ta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17
Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

At age 10, Levi Draheim hates math and loves reading Harry Potter books. He plays the violin but dislikes practicing. What he really enjoys is paddling a kayak or going swimming. It helps that he lives just a five-minute walk from the beach in the to...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 11 hours ago