New Miami has made $49,500 in speeding ticket fines since its new speed camera program was put in place in February, and lawyers suing the village want that money garnished to pay the $1.8 million case they are pursuing.
When the stationary speed cameras were rolling for 15 months, the village pulled in $1.8 million. Much of that money was spent on employee raises and insurance, new vehicles and other things the village couldn’t previously afford.
Lawyers for drivers who won a $1.8 million judgment against New Miami for its former speed cameras now want assets from the new speed camera program seized so when the case is finally over they can get their money back.
New Miami’s former speed catcher program was deemed unconstitutional in 2014, when Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Sage banned its use and granted the case class-action status, meaning thousands of other motorists who had been cited could join on and seek a legal remedy.
Since then, the case has twice gone to the 12th District Court of Appeals and is now waiting at the Ohio Supreme Court, to see if justices will agree to hear it.
The village has paid more than $80,000 defending itself in the court proceedings.
New Miami contracted with Blue Line Solutions out of Athens, Tenn., at the end of January for use of hand-held speed cameras. At any given time a patrol vehicle, with an officer aiming the camera, can be seen tucked in between buildings on the main drag just at the point where the speed limit drops coming out of Hamilton to 35 m.p.h., past the bridge on U.S. 127.
The village’s share of the virtually automatic $95 ticket is 65 percent, or $61.75.
Under the former contract with Optotraffic out of Maryland, New Miami’s share was 60 percent.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case are accusing the village of trying to hide the money it has collected to pay for other things.
“New Miami has increased spending with no reliable source of income besides the revenue from the operation of the ASEP (Automated Speed Enforcement Program),” the garnishment motion reads.
“The increased spending by New Miami, combined with the removal of much of the revenue to an out-of-state corporation, has the effect of continually removing from New Miami’s possession its only remaining substantial asset. From these facts an inference of intent to hinder, delay or defraud creditors arises. This inference is supported by the financial difficulties facing the village of New Miami prior to the operation of the ASEP and its unwillingness to raise revenues to meet its obligations,” the garnishment motion reads.
Village Solicitor Dennis Adams said the village has a general fund balance of $1.2 million and the 2016 budget for that fund is $1.16 million. In 2013, the first full year the cameras operated, expenditures increased by $1 million to $2.5 million.
He declined to comment on the garnishment motion.
Lisa Taylor, who works at her husband’s Oze Rod Shop, right across from where the former cameras were stationed and where the police position themselves now, said speeders should pay because they are breaking the law.
While she doesn’t live in the village, she said it needs help financially.
“I think the money has been used appropriately, this is a blighted area, it can be used here,” she said. “I think if it makes the roads a little bit better and does a little bit better things for the community and they’re just getting it because other people are doing wrong, then they should definitely get the money.”