10/31/2019Texas City Misleads Public On Red Light Camera Payments
Leon Valley, Texas allows red light camera company to make false threats to encourage payment of tickets.
The Texas legislature almost entirely banned the use of red light cameras in June. The exception -- snuck in by lawmakers favorably disposed to the automated ticketing industry -- allowed ticketing to continue only in those in cities that specifically drafted contracts that locked in long-term deals to get around anticipated ban legislation. Lawmakers who opposed cameras allowed this particular provision to slide by inserting a provision of their own making payment of red light camera tickets entirely optional.
Leon Valley and its photo ticketing vendor, Verra Mobility (formerly American Traffic Solutions), has been ignoring that law. Leon Valley joined Amarillo, Balcones Heights and Humble in refusing to take down the cameras in the wake of the change in Texas law. Instead, Verra Mobility has been mailing out collection notices that misstate the law.
"It is in your best interest to pay the civil penalties due immediately," stated a collections notice sent under Leon Valley's police department seal. "Failure to do so within the time allowed will cause this matter to be submitted to a law firm for collections and may result in the county tax assessor-collector refusing to register your vehicle which will prevent you from registering or selling your vehicle."
House Bill 1631 (view statute) explicitly prohibits county and state officials from placing a hold on vehicle registration renewals for non-payment of a camera citation. Without those provisions, state and local officials cannot refuse an otherwise valid renewal application. In addition, it has been unlawful since 2015 for any credit rating agency to lower a motorist's credit score over an unpaid ticket. This prohibition applies nationwide.
"If we need to make a correction based on the new law passed, I am confident our city will comply," Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley told TheNewspaper in an email.
Before the ban took effect, Leon Valley officials failed to be accurate in describing the penalties for non-payment. In an interview with KENS television in December 2018, Leon Valley Police Chief Joe Salvaggio made false claims about enforcement.
"If you don't pay 'em then the registration on your vehicle cannot be renewed through the state of Texas," Chief Salvaggio said. "So, eventually if you say, 'I'm not going to pay them' when you go to pay your registration, now you're going to have to come to us and pay an additional charge for a late fee."
This particular statement was, even back in 2018, incorrect because Leon Valley did not pay the required fees to set up a contract with the county to put a freeze on vehicle registrations. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has the authority to enforce any municipal violations of the new ban on red light cameras.