By Scott Calvert and Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun
6:50 PM EDT, April 24, 2013
Baltimore officials are refusing to pay the city's former speed and red-light camera operator $2 million for its final three months of work, a period that preceded the troubled start for the new contractor in January.
The city stopped issuing tickets from the cameras for weeks because of the rocky transition from the old vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, to Brekford Corp.
Xerox says it's owed money for services provided in October, November and December, according to Solicitor George Nilson, the city's chief lawyer.
Because of a "number of disagreements," Nilson said, "the city held back on making those payments" at least temporarily. "Prudent business people don't automatically or necessarily send out final payments when there are pending issues needing to be resolved," he said.
A Xerox spokesman, Carl Langsenkamp, declined to comment. "We will not discuss the details of our negotiations with the City," he wrote in an e-mail.
Nilson said the disputed figure is "slightly in excess of $2 million."
The figure represents the fees Xerox says it is owed for speed and red-light citations issued by the city in the last three months of 2012, according to Nilson. Under its contract, the company received a share of every fine paid by motorists — up to $19.20 of each $40 speed camera fine, for example.
After attempts to reach a resolution failed, discussions are now in a "quiet mode," Nilson said. He would not say how much money the city might be willing to pay Xerox or give details on the dispute.
Disagreement between the two sides flared into the open Tuesday when the city said it would void more than 6,000 tickets appealed by drivers because Xerox since April 8 has stopped appearing in court to defend them. Company officials say they have given the city all needed information to defend those tickets.
A major issue has been the transition to Brekford, the vendor hired after the city concluded the firm would work out better financially. Maurice R. Nelson, a Brekford executive, has said his company couldn't operate the city's cameras when it took over Jan. 1 because Xerox didn't leave behind its software. Xerox contends its software is proprietary.
During the transition, 78 city speed cameras and 81 red-light cameras went offline for weeks. Lately Brekford has been installing new speed cameras. But last week the city again stopped issuing automated tickets after it emerged that one of Brekford's cameras was programmed with the wrong speed limit.
By voiding the 6,000-plus tickets on appeal, city officials are forgoing the chance to collect $300,000 in fines. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she's not concerned about lost money. The important thing, she said, is for the city to reduce errors and get the cameras working again.
"My concern is that we get this right," Rawlings-Blake said. "For me this is about making sure we can move forward with a program that helps us reach our goal, which is to create more safety for our kids."
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