7/9/2019Florida Town Caught Misusing Red Light Camera Cash
Opa-Locka, Florida caught failing to turn over $3 million in red light camera profit to the state.
Florida's auditor general has caught a city misusing red light camera cash and other funds belonging to the state. According to a report released on June 28, Opa-Locka, a city of 15,000 in Miami-Dade County, the mismanagement was so bad that state agencies began withholding $1.2 million from the city for its failure to comply with financial reporting requirements.
Opa-Locka gave American Traffic Solutions (now Verra Mobility) the right to set up eight red light cameras to issue fully automated citations worth $158 each. Under state law, the city is supposed to transmit $83 from each ticket to the state Department of Revenue. Those payments are supposed to be made on a weekly basis, but the audit found this was not happening. Over eight years, Opa-Locka's for-profit vendor gave the city $8.1 million in revenue, of which $4.2 million was supposed to be turned over to the state. The city only handed over $1.2 million, leaving a $3 million shortfall.
"In response to our inquiry, city personnel indicated they did not know why former city personnel did not make the required weekly transfers to the Department of Revenue during the period June 2013 through July 2018," the audit report stated. "Without prompt remittance of proceeds to the Department of Revenue from traffic signal penalties, the associated state funds are deprived of these revenues and unable to use the proceeds for their intended purposes."
Opa-Locka was also caught improperly handing out automobiles to the mayor and all four city commissioners. The city paid for a car, including full coverage insurance and tolls, for the city manager. This is a problem, since the city was obligated to report the value of any personal use of the cars to the Internal Revenue Service because it is a form of taxable income. The commissioners' cars were leased at a monthly cost of $1179.
Opa-Locka's finances were so dire that the city was declared to be in a financial emergency in 2016. A state oversight board was put in place to oversee operations.
A copy of the audit is available in a 5mb PDF file at the source link below.