Springfield loses red light camera lawsuit appeal

City of Springfield likely to appeal to Ohio Supreme Court.


The city of Springfield lost its appeal challenging new state restrictions on the use of red light cameras, but it will likely ask the Ohio Supreme Court to hear its case later this year.

Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas said he will probably file an appeal within the next week.

State lawmakers approved regulations last year that require a police officer to be present at an intersection with the automated cameras in order to issue traffic tickets.

Springfield filed a lawsuit against the state last year challenging those restrictions, arguing it’s unconstitutional because it violates its ability to enforce local traffic laws. A Clark County judge disagreed last August and upheld the state law. The city appealed that decision.

The Second District Court of Appeals in Dayton also upheld that law late last week.

“The Ohio constitution clearly gives cities the right to make these kinds of decisions,” Strozdas said. “I regret I wasn’t able to persuade the Court of Appeals of that.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office was pleased the court agreed with their argument, Spokesman Dan Tierney said.

“We have a duty to defend the laws that are passed by the legislature and signed by the governor,” Tierney said. “They’re presumed to be constitutional until a court rules otherwise. It’s our duty as an office to defend the constitutionality of laws that are challenged in court.”

The court handled the case quickly, Strozdas said, allowing Springfield to be considered for the Ohio Supreme Court’s docket this year.

The city of Springfield could ask to join its appeal with a similar case from the city of Dayton, which the Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to hear.

“We may ask to join in that appeal, consolidating them, essentially,” Strozdas said.

Akron and Toledo have filed similar appeals at their regional district court of appeals but have yet to receive a ruling.

Springfield suspended its red light camera program a year ago after the new law went into effect. The city has issued about 77,000 citations since the program started. It has 17 cameras at 10 intersections.

Springfield has collected about $3.4 million in fines from red light cameras since they were installed in 2006. It stands to lose about $250,000 annually if the cameras are shelved for good but city leaders have long argued the automated ticket program is about safety, not money.

In 2007, 90 crashes occurred at the intersections with red light cameras. In 2014, that number fell to 44 crashes, a 51 percent reduction.

Red light cameras have had a “measurable, significant impact in improving traffic” in Springfield, Strozdas said.

“I’m sure other cities saw the same effects,” he said.

The lawsuit is worth pursuing to the supreme court, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said, not because of the cameras themselves, but because of the principle.

“We have a right to decide how we’re going to police our community, unless we do something illegal,” Copeland said. “They’re trying to decide how we get to do our police work. I think it’s wrong.”

Later this month, the city commission will vote whether to renew its five-year contract with its photo enforcement provider, RedFlex Traffic Systems. The Arizona-based company has served in that role since 2006.

Last year a former RedFlex chief executive officer pleaded guilty to participating in an eight-year bribery and fraud scheme in Columbus and Cincinnati. The case didn’t included any mention of links to Springfield and city leaders here denied receiving bribes.

If approved, the city won’t be able to search for another photo enforcement provider until after the RedFlex contract expires, City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said. However, the city won’t reinstate its red light camera program until its current court case is finalized, he said.

“It just continues our current agreement from the last five-year renewal period,” he said. “It will only come into play if, in fact, we reinstate the program.”

The red-light program isn’t fair and is an invasion of privacy, Springfield resident Cheryl Cox said. She once got a ticket on Troy Road.

“All it is is government wanting more money … Every time it’s something different to pull more money out of people’s pockets,” Cox said. “And it’s hard right now because of the job situation and people living on fixed incomes.”

Springfield resident Ronnie Moss sees it differently. He was recently hit while riding his bicycle by a man who ran a red light on Limestone Street, he said. Moss was injured but thankful to have survived.

“I could’ve gotten killed,” he said.

If the red light cameras were functional, Moss said it may have kept the man from speeding through the intersection.

“When that light’s yellow, he’s going to stop,” Moss said. “There are lives that are saved by that camera.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says death of Linkin Park singer ‘a sad day’
Ohio Gov. John Kasich says death of Linkin Park singer ‘a sad day’

You wouldn’t expect a state governor to release a statement on the passing of a new metal/rap band’s singer, but John Kasich was touched enough by the death of Linkin Park Singer Chester Bennington’s death to release a statement on Twitter. “I’m still a big fan of Linkin Park,” Kasich tweeted on his personal account...
Enon woman dies after years of work in local government, agencies
Enon woman dies after years of work in local government, agencies

Priscilla Smithers, who served as Springfield City Clerk, an Enon Village Council member and will several local nonprofits, has died. She was 75. Smithers began as the director of community services for Continental Cablevision before taking the position as clerk of Springfield City Commission, which she held for nine years. She was credited as a stabilizing...
John McCain gave one of his biggest political speeches in Dayton area
John McCain gave one of his biggest political speeches in Dayton area

U.S. Sen. John McCain, who announced Wednesday that he has brain cancer, made the Dayton area central to his presidential run in 2008. McCain, R-Arizona, chose Wright State University in Fairborn as the place he introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the world. Standing onstage at Wright State’s Nutter Center on Aug. 29, 2008 - his 72nd birthday...
Ohio, local leaders react to news Sen. John McCain has brain cancer
Ohio, local leaders react to news Sen. John McCain has brain cancer

The news that Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, has brain cancer drew reaction from across the country and in Ohio. Here’s what some local and Ohio leaders had to say: “I have had the privilege of working and traveling overseas with Senator John McCain to strengthen our Armed Forces. He has not only been a hero...
Longtime Ohio congressman dies
Longtime Ohio congressman dies

Former Congressman Ralph Regula, who represented the Canton region for nearly 40 years, died yesterday at 92. He served in Congress from 1973-2009. At the time, he was the second longest serving Republican member of the House. “I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend, colleague and mentor,” U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci said...
More Stories