Cleveland Officials: Speeding, Red Light Citations Not In Jeopardy

CLEVELAND (AP) - Tickets issued to thousands of speeders and motorists caught driving through red lights by mobile traffic cameras were not affected by the court victory of a man who argued the city violated its own ordinance governing use of the cameras, city officials said.

Mike Besser, an attorney who lives in suburban South Euclid, beat two speeding tickets on Wednesday after he argued in Cleveland Municipal Court that the city did not give 30-day advance notification to drivers that curbside and patrol car traffic cameras were about to be used.

The city ordinance was passed in 2005, and a press release announcing the use of stationary cameras was issued on Oct. 14, 2005.

Besser won by showing a hearing officer a copy of the ordinance and a copy of an e-mail from the city's law department showing that a press release on the use of mobile cameras was never sent.

"They have the duty to at least inform the public that mobile units will be used," said hearing officer Brian Mahon, according to an audio tape of the hearing recorded by the Parking Violations Photo Safety Division. "So, you're not liable."

Mayor Frank Jackson's office sent a press release to media outlets on Friday with information on the city's fixed-location and mobile cameras.

The release was sent "just in case" others try to challenge their speeding and red-light tickets, Jackson spokeswoman Andrea Taylor said on Saturday. But city officials still believe that information given to the public in 2005 under previous Mayor Jane Campbell was sufficient and tickets already issued will remain legitimate, she said.

"This program was not put in place to create funds, but to make neighborhoods safer," she said.

If courts eventually determine the city didn't give proper notice on the mobile speed units, that decision would likely only apply to recently ticketed drivers, not those who have already paid their fines to the city's Parking Violations Bureau, the city's law director, Robert Triozzi, said in a statement Friday.

City officials could not say how many people have outstanding cases for mobile camera violations. It sometimes takes weeks for car owners to receive the tickets by mail.

Traffic cameras brought in nearly $6 million dollars in fines for Cleveland last year. About 25 percent of the nearly 86,000 tickets issued last year in Cleveland resulted from camera enforcement.