Township right to limit private interest in fines

Hubbard Township trustees made the right decision this week when they voted 3-0 to call off a plan that would have allowed a private company that profits from speed camera fines to cover a large increase in the pay of local officers operating the cameras.

Use of the speed cameras was recently approved in Hubbard Township after voters in November narrowly defeated a 3.75-mill continuous police levy. That decision by trustees is just one more piece of evidence that communities are using these cameras as a money grab — and not for safety reasons as many maintain.

We are disappointed our local government leaders increasingly are adopting the attitude that if you can’t tax residents, then it’s OK to fine them.

When the speed camera plan was adopted earlier this year, Hubbard Township Trustee Fred Hanley spoke about the financial gains the township would enjoy. At that time, he said township officials weren’t yet sure how much money the program could generate, but whatever it was, it would be spent on needs in the police department, excluding wages.

In an attempt to further increase the new revenue, the township had been on the path also to allow a private company that profits from the speed camera tickets to incentivize the quantity of these tickets by paying Hubbard Township’s part-time officers an extra $10 per hour for the time they spend operating the handheld speed cameras.

Under the proposed plan, Blue Line Solutions, the Tennessee-based company that provides speed cameras for several local townships and municipalities, would have paid to increase the part-time police officer wage from $15 to $25 per hour while these officers were running the cameras along Interstate 80.

The township gets 60 percent of the speed-camera revenue, and Blue Line Solutions gets 40 percent.

We have questioned the wisdom of such a plan and believe strongly that this would be a direct violation of Ohio’s ethics laws that prohibit unlawful interest in a public contract.

Fortunately, township legal adviser Mark Finamore quickly put the brakes on that proposal.

Finamore’s legal opinion believes such an arrangement may have violated those ethics rules.

Now the township’s newly adopted speed-camera program is in a state of flux, largely because trustees have said they do not favor having their full-time officers operate the cameras, as they prefer they focus on patrolling neighborhoods and ensuring safety throughout the township.

In other words, they prefer that their full-time officers do actual police work.

That’s good, but shouldn’t they call on all their officers — both full-time and part-time — to do that?

Operating speed cameras in order to generate revenue for local government is nothing more than policing for profit.