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Former Red Light Camera CEO To Plead Guilty To Bribery Charges

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jun 9, 2015 6:30PM

The former CEO of the company that operated the city's much-maligned red light camera system had a change of heart and will now plead guilty to charges that she bribed city officials for a contract, according to her attorney.

Last September Karen Finley, the former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., pleaded not guilty to bribery charges. Finley stands accused of hiring a lifelong friend of former city transportation manager John Bills to act as a conduit for bribes in 2003, the Tribune reported at the time.

The man, Martin O'Malley, later admitted that he was paid at least $2 million, which was largely intended as payoffs for Bills. According to the prosecution, O'Malley gave Bills at least $570,000, paid off his debts and bought him a condo in Arizona. Additionally, the prosecution alleges that Redflex paid for Bills' hotel rooms, car rentals, meals and other various personal items.

According to court documents, in exchange for the bribes, Bills agreed to rig the selection process for Redflex, then later helped secure additional contracts for the company in the city. After a Tribune investigation raised questions about the company, Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled their contract with the city in 2013 and banned them from bidding on any further contracts with Chicago.

Last December, O'Malley pleaded guilty to bribery charges and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators, the Tribune reported at the time. It was determined that his sentencing would be postponed until he finished cooperating against the other defendants in the case, including Bills and Finley.

With all that knowledge in mind, Finley's attorney asked U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall to change her plea to guilty, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

At the same time, Judge Kendall shot down a petition from Bills' attorney to move his trial out of the city. According to the Sun-Times, in January, his attorney wrote to the court saying that:

"John Bills cannot receive a fair trial in this town. He is accused of being a central player in a transaction that helped bring about one of the most unpopular regulatory programs in the City of Chicago's history - the red-light cameras."

This revelation—that Chicagoans hate the red-light camera program so much that one of the men responsible for bringing it to town thinks he can't get a fair trial—somehow only adds insult to the injury of the reviled policy.