Tag Archives: cameras

Audit: Rockwood Man Bought $32,726 in Guns, Cameras and Clothes With City Credit Card

News release from comptroller’s office:
Investigators from the Comptroller’s office have discovered that a former Rockwood city coordinator used a city credit card and a city store charge card to purchase at least $32,725 in property and services for his personal benefit over a period of about three years.
These personal purchases included nearly $12,000 in guns, ammunition and firearm accessories, more than $7,000 in clothing, nearly $6,000 for camera equipment, more than $4,000 in online college tuition and nearly $4,000 for other miscellaneous personal items.
An investigative audit released today details how the former coordinator, Tom Pierce, used the city credit card to purchase at least 11 guns, including a tactical shot gun, a .308 rifle, a .44 caliber revolver, and two 9 mm pistols. These guns were registered to Pierce personally, not on behalf of the city. He also used the city credit card to purchase holsters, rifle scopes, tactical sights and ammunition.
Additionally, Pierce used the city credit card to also purchase clothing for his personal benefit at a total cost of $7,263. The clothing purchased includes polo shirts, cargo shorts, underwear, socks, women’s jeans, suit separates and running shoes. Additionally, the report details how Pierce used the city credit card to purchase premium cameras and photography equipment costing at least $5,697, including two Olympus cameras priced at more than $1,200 each. Although the city owned various inexpensive digital cameras used by employees, both the current mayor and the former mayor told the Comptroller’s investigators that they had no knowledge Pierce had purchased premium camera equipment at the city’s expense.
According to the Comptroller’s report, Pierce used the city credit card to charge business management courses totaling $4,190 from an online college and also used the city credit card to purchase other personal items with a total value of $3,675, which included protein powder, testosterone booster, digital music, books and movies.
Investigators determined that all of these charges were paid for with city funds. Both the current mayor and the former mayor told investigators that they had no knowledge Pierce had purchased the personal items at the city’s expense, either. They also indicated that they would not have given permission for the city to pay for such expenses.
“It is unacceptable for people in positions of public trust to abuse that trust at the expense of local taxpayers,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I commend our investigators for helping to bring these issues to light. I also want to thank the district attorney and his staff for the work they have done on this case.”
This month, the Roane County Grand Jury returned a seven-count indictment against Pierce for theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and official misconduct.
To view the Comptroller’s report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/
To view photos of some of the personal items purchased with city funds, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/NR/20130227RockwoodReleasePictures.pdf

Hill: Not Bluffing City on Camera Shutdown Bill

Tennessee state Rep. Timothy Hill remains committed to his legislation banning Bluff City’s speed enforcement cameras despite criticism from the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, reports Hank Hayes.
“I’m disappointed with the name calling,” Hill, R-Blountville, said when asked for a response to that criticism occurring at a board meeting Thursday night. “That doesn’t advance any discussion. … I’m surprised that if the city is that concerned with my legislation — I figured they would be — I’m surprised they have not reached out to me at this point. I’ve never been invited to a BMA meeting. I have yet to have one of their aldermen reach out to me in any form or fashion to have a discussion on this.”
Bluff City aldermen warned that losing revenue from those speed cameras will hurt funding for various projects, including a Sullivan County-supported library in town.
The speed cameras, located on Highway 11-E are not in Bluff City’s downtown area and also catch motorists moving through business areas of the Piney Flats community.

City Shuts Down Traffic Cameras

After six years, Red Bank has given its traffic cameras the red light, says the Chattanooga TFP.
Minutes after a handful of residents spoke out Tuesday against how the cameras have hurt the city’s image and businesses, Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 to ax the city’s four traffic cameras, which cite motorists who speed and run red lights at the city’s busiest intersections along the city’s main artery, Dayton Boulevard.
The lone holdout for keeping the cameras was Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who said that the cameras’ effect on safety was more important than their impact on business or city coffers.
“I don’t feel like that we can afford to hire more police officers to patrol Dayton Boulevard,” she said. “The majority of citizens in Red Bank have asked me to vote to keep the cameras and keep the police officers off Dayton Boulevard and in our neighborhoods, because crime is rising.”
The vote allowed Mayor Monty Millard to make good on a campaign promise that he had so far been unable to fulfill because of the contract the city had with American Traffic Services, the Arizona-based company that runs the program.

Town May Take Down Traffic Cameras

RED BANK, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Red Bank might shut down its traffic cameras.
Mayor Monty Millard told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/O92CXF ) people who live in Red Bank don’t like the cameras and believe their use hurts the city.
Three intersections in Red Bank are under surveillance from the cameras, which are owned by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions. Millard also said revenue from tickets issued because of driving infractions caught by the cameras has dropped significantly since the Legislature passed a law that won’t allow right turn on red tickets if the only evidence is a traffic cam.
The cameras have been in place for seven years.
A vote on whether to end the contract is scheduled for the city commission’s Sept. 4 meeting.

Federal Traffic Camera Ban Meaningless?

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. made no secret about what he was trying to accomplish when he inserted language into a federal highway bill that takes aim at red-light traffic cameras at busy intersections in Knoxville and other cities across the country. But Mike Collins reports it may have little impact.
The little-noticed provision, part of a $100 billion highway spending package that received final approval in Congress on Friday, bars the use of federal funds to buy, operate or maintain red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement systems.
“Since most highway money, even at the state level, comes from the federal government, and most of the work that is being done locally involves federal money, what hopefully it will mean — and should mean — is that there will be many, many fewer red-light cameras all over the country,” the Knoxville Republican said.
But highway safety advocates and others say the ban is unlikely to have any impact at all.
“There really isn’t any federal funding that goes into any of these programs,” said David Kelly, president and executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for Safer Roads.
In Knoxville, red-light cameras are operated and maintained at 15 intersections by American Traffic Solutions Inc., a Tempe, Ariz.-based contractor that has 3,000 of the devices nationwide. No federal money is used to operate any of the cameras, said Charles Territo, a company spokesman.

Duncan Amendment Blocks Fed Funding of Traffic Cameras

A federal highway bill that is expected to receive final approval today in Congress could lead to far fewer red-light traffic cameras across the country, reports Michael Collins.
The legislation, a massive bill that overhauls highway and transit programs, bars the use of federal money to purchase red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement cameras.
“Since most highway money, even at the state level, comes from the federal government, and most of the work that is being done locally involves federal money, what hopefully it will mean — and should mean — is that there will be many, many fewer red-light cameras all over the country,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican.
Duncan said he was able to insert the red-light provision into the final highway bill during negotiations between the House and the Senate.
Duncan serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He also was a member of the House-Senate conference committee that pieced together the final highway package.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the highway bill later today

Audit: Bluff City Gets More Revenue from Speed Cameras Than Taxes

BLUFF CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Despite a lawsuit and temporary shutdown, speed cameras in Bluff City have become a significant revenue generator that netted the city nearly $1.6 million.
An audit obtained by the Bristol Herald Courier shows that in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the city’s general fund earned $2.6 million, which included $1.9 million in fines and forfeitures that primarily came from tickets issued by cameras along U.S. Highway 11E (http://bit.ly/yIBHK1 ).
The city signed a contract with American Traffic Solutions, and the cameras catch speeders going over 55 mph in a 45 mph zone along Bristol Highway in Sullivan County.
Between Jan. 1, 2010, and May 31, 2011, the cameras have resulted in nearly 40,000 citations to drivers from all 50 states, Canada and the District of Columbia.
The city temporarily turned them off last year after a state law required a longer distance between a speed zone change and the cameras. The town had to lengthen the speed zone to comply and refunded $46,700 in fines.
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the town by two people who were issued citations.
The revenue generated from the citations, which cost drivers $50 to $90 each, goes into the city’s general fund. The revenue from the citations exceeds other taxes collected into the general fund, including property taxes, sales taxes and intergovernmental revenue.
City manager Judy Delaney said the city can afford projects that would normally be outside the town’s budget with the money from the citations. The Board of Mayor and Alderman recently donated $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Bristol to help start a club in Bluff City.
“The cameras made it possible,” Delaney said. “Without the cameras, we would not be able to do that.”

Knoxville Candidates Differ on Traffic Cameras

Knoxville mayoral candidates Madeline Rogero and Mark Padgett covered a range of topics in a radio broadcast debate, reports Jim Balloch, including red light cameras, the city’s homeless population and the best approach for bolstering the city’s economy.
“I would like to see them come down,” Padgett said of the city’s red light cameras, which are posted at more than a dozen locations. He said he doubts they have been as effective as claimed in making intersections safer.
“They are nothing but revenue generators, and another layer of bureaucracy,” Padgett said.
Rogero said she believes the cameras have been effective in encouraging safer driving at the intersections where they have been located, but that she has no plans to increase their numbers.
The candidates were seated at a table in the Market Square studio of Knoxivi.com. The two-hour debate was carried live on NewsTalk 98.7 FM radio and on a live video stream on the websites of both the radio station and Knoxivi.com.
It was the 50th time the candidates have debated during their campaign.
Each candidate was cordial to the other. Rogero occasionally zinged Padgett, but did so very mildly.
“Mark, you know nothing about this,” she said at one point during a lengthy debate on the complexities of the homeless issue and how best to address it.
Padgett, 33, exuded his trademark enthusiasm and energy throughout the debate. He vowed to be a mayor who would aggressively recruit new businesses and industry to Knoxville and take many steps to make the city even more business-friendly than it already is.

More Troubles in Bluff City; Mayor Blindsided by Traffic Camera Flap

Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells sounded exasperated Monday, says the Johnson City Press.
She not only was upset about the handling, or mishandling, of the city’s speed cameras on U.S. Highway 11E, but also about what she feels is a purposeful exclusion of her opinions and abilities as mayor. (Yesterday’s related post HERE.)
Interim City Manager, City Recorder and Finance Officer Judy A. Dulaney shut down the camera aimed at the southbound lanes last week after it was brought to her attention that the city had been violating state law since July 1. For more than two months after legislation was enacted, the city failed to move two posted 45 mph signs on the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 11E at least one mile away from the devices
…”They tell me nothing — I’m not included in their little network,” Wells said about Dulaney and the Board of Aldermen. “I’m a person on the outside looking in. I just find out things like this when I read the newspaper or watch the news.”
Article VI, Sec. 1 of the city charter states that “The Town Manager, town attorney and town judge shall serve at the pleasure of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”
“They took my office and my desk, and apparently they don’t want me around,” Wells said. “And no one’s even asked my opinion on the speed camera and signs. The sign distance was going to be a problem, but former City Manager Don Weaver had introduced a resolution to take care of it.”
Wells, who was a sitting alderwoman, was appointed mayor at a special called meeting on June 28 by two of the city’s five alderman.

Traffic Camera Troubles in Bluff City (thanks to an AG opinion?)

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Rep. Jon Lundberg say they didn’t realize the new state law on traffic cameras would immediately impact the speed ticket cameras in Bluff City, reports the Bristol Herald Courier. Bluff City officials didn’t either, until a ticketed motorist pointed out an August attorney general’s opinion on the new law. (Previous post HERE.)
A provision of the new law says no speed cameras are permitted within a mile of a speed limit reduction of 10 mph or more. The two legislators and the Bluff City officials thought a state constitutional provision against impairment of existing contracts, however, would mean the provision wouldn’t apply to existing cameras covered by an existing contract. The AG opinion says, basically, that it does – there are legal exceptions to the broad rule of non-impairment of contracts and the meant the new law’s provisions fall within those exceptions.
(AG Bob) Cooper’s opinion – and a protest from Jim Bollinger – prompted the city to temporarily shut down one of its two traffic cameras amid concerns the device might have illegally been issuing tickets to hundreds of drivers for the past 2½ months.
“They’ve got one hell of a mess going on there in Bluff City,” Bollinger said as he looked back on what’s happened since he Googled “Chapter 425.”
City officials knew they’d either have to move their speed camera or extend the city’s 45-mph-zone to comply with this last regulation (the one-mile ban). But they also thought they’d have plenty of time to take those steps because of a little known clause in the Tennessee constitution.
“We can’t break contracts by legislation,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican who represents Bluff City in the state Senate, said as he explained what the constitution’s contract clause entails. “We were told in committee that we can’t break or interfere with an existing contract through legislation.”
Because the new rules contained in Public Chapter 425 could somehow impact the contract a city has with its camera system operator, Ramsey said, many state legislators including himself believed the new rules would not apply to individual cities until their contracts expired – including Bluff City.
Under this interpretation, Bluff City would not have to take any action to comply with the law until Jan. 1, 2025, the expiration date for its contract with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that manages the system and supplied the cameras.
“We can’t change an existing contract,” said state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who shares Ramsey’s interpretation of the constitution’s contract clause. “We don’t have that authority.”
But while Lundberg agreed with Ramsey about the contract clause, he also questioned whether making Bluff City extend its 45-mph-zone or move its speed camera might also interfere with the camera-company contract.
….”I was told that we were grandfathered in,” Interim City Manager Judy Dulaney said Wednesday when asked why she shut the camera down amid questions about its legality. “I’m not going to take a chance on that. The city wants to do what is right.”
Ramsey praised Dulaney’s suspension of the southbound camera and subsequent declaration that any citations issued since July 1 were “under review” during a Friday afternoon interview. He also said Cooper’s opinion has caused some confusion across the state.