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Emanuel: Why Worry About Speed Camera Rollout Because Of Red-Light Camera Scandal?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 29, 2013 7:40PM

Photo Credit: -Tripp-
Mayor Rahm Emanuel put on his best “What, me worry?” face when asked if the city’s impending rollout of the speeding camera program should wait while a federal investigation into the bribery scandal that rocked Chicago’s red-light camera program is ongoing.

Emanuel said the investigation into John Bills, the former Chicago Department of Transportation official at the center of the investigation into the $2 million bribery scandal involving the red light camera contract, is “totally unrelated” to the speeding camera program. Bills, after leaving CDOT, was hired by the Traffic Safety Coalition, a lobbying group funded by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. and run by Emanuel political consultant Greg Goldner. Redflex Traffic Systems is accused of bribing Bills and a friend in connection with the contract, which the Emanuel administration eventually stripped from them last month. An independent investigation into the bribery scandal by Redflex’s Australian parent company cost chairman Maxwell Findlay his job, and the company has cooperated with federal investigators.

Meanwhile, Tribune reporter David Kidwell wrote earlier this week that the Daley administration was aware of the preferential treatment being accorded to Redflex Traffic Systems by Bills as early as 2007. American Traffic Solutions, a competing company looking to get their piece of the proverbial pie, reached out to Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to see what could be done to loosen Redflex’s stranglehold on the contract. (Burke has a longstanding relationship with Tom Donovan, a subcontractor of American Traffic Solutions and onetime patronage chief to mayors Richard J. Daley and Michael Bilandic.) Burke received an email from American Traffic Solutions CEO James Tuton about a 2006 meeting he had with Bills, who told him the original nonexclusive contract with Redflex was amended to be an exclusive one.

Burke, upon hearing the news, allegedly went ballistic and fired off several letters to Daley’s office and the city’s Corporation Counsel, accusing them of “illegal procurement practices, ‘unfathomable’ failures to meet minority hiring requirements and labeled the relationship with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. ‘suspect since its inception.’ Daley eventually opened the contract to a competitive bid.

If there’s a link between Daley and Emanuel here, it’s Greg Goldner. In addition to advising Emanuel, he’s a longtime Democratic operative and was Daley’s campaign manager. That alone is cause for concern among those who closely follow Chicago politics.