Tacoma had dealings with red light camera exec claiming widespread bribery


REDLIGHT SCANDAL: The city of Tacoma dealt with a former red light camera employee who is now caught up in a bribery scandal.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

Tacoma had a business partnership with a former executive of a major red light camera company who claims a Chicago-based bribe scandal he was involved in is widespread.

A 2006 proposal for red light cameras between Tacoma and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., obtained by Northwest Watchdog is signed by then vice president Aaron Rosenberg.

Rosenberg was fired and blamed for a bribery scandal exposed by the Chicago Tribune in 2012 that included paying a $910 luxury hotel tab for a city official who oversaw the company’s existing contract.

Rosenberg has filed a counterclaim against Redflex, arguing the bribery scandal spreads to cities in 13 states, including Washington. In the claim, he says the company gave out bribes and gifts to city officials. He said he has also talked to federal authorities who are investigating the private company. The claim doesn’t list specific cities or incidents and Redflex has denied condoning such behavior.

“We take our commitment to serving the public very seriously and do not condone unprofessional actions or instances of unethical behavior,” Redflex Director of Communications Jody Ryan said in an email to Northwest Watchdog in 2012.

It’s unclear from Rosenberg’s claim against the company which Washington cities could be included in his allegation. Oregon, where several cities hold contracts with Redflex, wasn’t listed.

Tacoma officials say the city’s process with Redflex didn’t leave any room for possible inpropriety. The city used a panel of department heads that would be impacted by the red light cameras — police, traffic, public works — to consider three companies in 2006 and signed a contract with Redflex in 2007.

“As far as I know Rosenberg wasn’t a part of the presentation process and even if he were there’s not really an opportunity for them to go out separately and be bribed,” said Loretta Cool, public information officer for the Tacoma Police Department. “This is why we have the RPF (request for proposals) process and why it’s set up the way it is.”

The final decision to go with Redflex was made by the city council.

“In the long run, that’s what saves us from being involved in these types of scams or scandals,” Cool said.

The city just extended its contract with Redflex last month and has been happy with the company, she added. The main reason Redflex was chosen was because the company said in writing it wouldn’t cost the city any money to have a red light camera program, Cool said.

“We are going forward. It was just renewed,” she said. ‘We haven’t had any issues with them following through with what they promised in the contract.”

Cool also said the police department hasn’t been contacted by any federal agents about Redflex.

Rosenberg claims the bribery scandal includes the following additional states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Redflex also confirmed it’s investigating wrongdoing in two other areas.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org

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