WATERLOO — The city will not fine itself when municipal vehicles are caught by automated traffic enforcement red light and speed cameras.
Waterloo City Council members debated the issue Monday before voting unanimously to adopt a “chronic nuisance” ordinance adding enhanced penalties for registered owners of vehicles caught frequently by cameras.
While the city’s ordinances governing the cameras do not specifically exempt city vehicles, Police Chief Dan Trelka said he would not issue a citation to the city should a violation occur.
“We’d be charging ourselves $35 for the citation to be issued,” Trelka said. “If we notice a problem, it will be referred to the department head and progressive discipline will apply.”
Resident Todd Obadal has called on the city to pass the fines along to city employees driving the vehicles.
“This should apply to people that are using city vehicles,” he said. “City vehicles are providing just as much of a safety hazard if they’re in violation of the law as any personally owned vehicles.”
Police officers review footage of violations captured by the automated traffic enforcement cameras before authorizing a citation to be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. The actual driver is not identified.
Councilwoman Sharon Juon said it didn’t make sense for the city to fine itself, which also would provide a cut to the company running the cameras.
Councilman Jerome Amos Jr. also questioned whether citations should be issued.
“Taxpayers own those vehicles,” Amos said. “So what we would be doing is essentially fining the taxpayers for those vehicles going through.”
Councilman Pat Morrissey said it would be worse for a city employee to be reported to their boss than getting a fine.
“A private citizen doesn’t have it go to an employer,” Morrissey said. “In this (situation) a public employee is going to have it also go to their boss, which could result in them being fired.”
But Councilwoman Margaret Klein said she wanted a city policy to govern what happens if an employee is caught violating the traffic laws in a city vehicle.
“If it’s left to the discretion of each administrator that’s an uneven form of justice,” Klein said. “If there isn’t a city policy addressing it would be chaos actually if it were to occur.”
Trelka has previously indicated a car owner is able to assign the automated traffic enforcement citation to the person who was driving at the time, such as a family member or friend who borrowed a car. Council members did not discuss why the city couldn’t assign the citation to one of its employees using the same process.
The chronic nuisance vehicle ordinance adopted this week creates municipal infraction tickets to the owners of vehicles receiving three or more citations from automated traffic enforcement cameras in a 12-month period.
The fine is $100 for a first offense, $200 for a repeat offense and $300 if any of the speeding violations were more than 20 mph over the posted limit.