8/8/2011Washington: Traffic Camera Executive Orchestrated Anti-Voter Suit
Red light camera company exposed in secret attempt to undermine Mukilteo, Washington ballot measure.
Photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) could find itself in trouble for lying before the Washington Supreme Court about its involvement in attempts to overturn a ballot initiative in Mukilteo last year. The Everett Herald newspaper obtained emails from former ATS Vice President Bill Kroske that show he attempted to collude with the city's mayor to deny the public an opportunity to vote on banning red light cameras and speed cameras.
In November, 71 percent of voters said they wanted nothing to do with the photo ticketing program that the city could had approved on May 17, 2010. By June, Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman began circulating a petition to overturn the ordinance and by July 19, 2010 the city council had no choice but to place the initiative on the ballot (although it converted the item into an "advisory" measure without disclosing this change on any of the ballot material). On the same day, "Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government" filed suit to block the vote from happening. Court documents describe this group as "an unincorporated association of Mukilteo residents." As the emails obtained by the Herald show, this "association" was wholly created by ATS.
"We would like to get the Eyman initiative stopped before it goes to vote," Kroske wrote to Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine on July 14. "We have hired a strong Seattle attorney firm, but they need a Mukilteo resident to use for the filing. They could use the mayor, in his official capacity, as the defendant in a declaratory judgment action, but a resident might look better. So we need your help here. Do you know someone who agrees with stopping this action and would be will(ing) to have us file under their name? We need to submit the filing by Friday, so we need to make the decision today."
The Kroske wanted the discussion with Marine continued by telephone, leaving no record of what arrangements were made. Ultimately, the supreme court refused to block the initiative, but the underlying case remains pending. During oral arguments in May, Justice James M. Johnson directly asked attorney Vanessa Soriano Power whether there were any "hidden plaintiffs" in the case purportedly brought by "Mukilteo Citizens" alone. Power said there was no other interest being represented. Power also happens to represent ATS in other cases.
In another set of emails from April, Kroske derided Mukilteo Public Works Director Larry Waters because he had stated in writing to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that there was no accident data that would justify installing red light cameras.
"I cannot believe this idiot sent this to WSDOT," Kroske wrote. "I may have torpedoed the project. Hold up any further work on the submission until I hear from the mayor or city manager. With the engineer on record against it, I expect it will be difficult to get approval from WSDOT."
Waters noticed that ATS data showed 16 straight-through violations over the course of a 16 hour test at 13 intersection approaches. Over the same period, there were 3343 "slow right turns" that were eligible for ticketing. Studies show rolling right turns rarely cause accidents (view study).
ATS ultimately fired Kroske after he was caught by a local newspaper websites posting pro-camera comments while posing as a resident and failing to disclose he was an ATS employee.