The village of New Miami has asked the 12th District Court of Appeals to send the speed camera case back to Judge Michael Oster so he can explicitly rule speeders must be repaid more than $3 million, interest and other issues.
Oster ruled in February that the village is on the hook for all tickets paid under the unconstitutional speed camera program, which would mean more than $3 million, but he didn’t outline explicit numbers.
New Miami contracted with Optotraffic to run the speed camera program, and for that service, the Maryland traffic camera business was paid $1.2 million, or 40 percent of the total fine collection amount. So the final figure the speeders wanted to collect is $3 million. The village has maintained it is only liable for the $10,728 paid by speeders who actually went through the improper hearing process which is at the heart of the case.
“This court should have the benefit of reviewing the final damage award when it considers this sovereign immunity appeal,” New Miami’s lawyer James Englert wrote. “In short, limited remand would allow the opportunity for a more complete appeal, especially with issues relative to liability and the amount of damages.”
The speeders attorneys also want interest for their clients. Josh Engel, said interest on the unconstitutional fines has been calculated at $367,560, so the total amount owed now is $3.4 million and they want it paid in 30 days from when the case is finally over.
Englert said Ohio law provides for municipalities to pay out judgments over time, up to ten years if the judge agrees. He said municipalities should not be made to go out of business — taking necessary services away from residents — because of a lawsuit.
“It’s the clear the village does not have $3.4 million, it’s just absolutely clear,” Englert said. “It can’t pay that, it would mean the village would go into bankruptcy. And plaintiff’s may do something crazy like hold the village in contempt for not paying $3.4 million, which it doesn’t have at this time. There’s a lot of absurdity in all this.”
Engel maintains this latest New Miami move is just another delaying tactic, because he said there is no way they can get everything that needs to be done, finished during the requested 60-day remand.
“This is just another effort by the Village to stay and delay paying the money back to motorists under a scheme the court, years ago, declared to be unconstitutional,” Engel said. “It is also an excuse for the Village’s attorney to continue to church the file and generate legal fees that have to be paid by taxpayers.”
New Miami’s legal bill for this case is more than $260,000.
Englert said he believes 60 days is long enough to get everything accomplished except for the attorney fee issue, which can be handled separately and likely wouldn’t spark another appeal.