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City to 'Remain Neutral' in Red-Light Camera Lawsuit

Murrieta city council members voted 3-0 in closed session Tuesday to "remain neutral" in a pending lawsuit against the red-light camera initiative.

Despite prodding from several citizens, the city of Murrieta will not take sides in a red-light camera lawsuit that—among others—names its city council and city clerk.

Three Murrieta city council members voted to "remain neutral" after meeting in closed session following Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting, City Attorney Leslie Devaney reported.

Those who went into closed session included Mayor Doug McAllister and Council members Alan Long and Randon Lane; Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs and Councilwoman Kelly Bennett were absent from the meeting and therefore did not vote in the matter.

It took about 30 minutes for them to reach a decision.

Devaney said they were confident that attorneys on both sides of the case were well versed in Fifth Amendment rights.

is an attempt to discredit the and ultimately get it removed from the November ballot based on the argument that cities do not have authority to ban them.

Murrieta City Council, Murrieta City Clerk Kay Vinson, Riverside County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil and Riverside County Board of Supervisors are named as respondents in the court filing, while anti red-light camera petitioners Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson are named as the real persons of interest.

All parties were unrepresented, according to court records, but the nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute was reportedly going to take on the case on behalf of the Serafin and Nielson.

Attorney Charles H. Bell, Jr., of Sacramento-based Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk filed the suit June 5 on behalf of Murrieta resident Steve Flynn, who as a former Public Safety and Traffic Commissioner worked to initially bring the red-light cameras to Murrieta.

During public comments at Tuesday's meeting, several urged the city to defend the people's right to vote on the matter.

"Basically I am just here to ask you to ask you to honor our constitutional right to petition the government and let us vote on it," said resident Bob Russo.

Serafin, who garnered enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, urging the Registrar to take a stance for the people.

Ernie White, who serves on the Republican Party County Central Committee, told city council he believed American Traffic Solutions—the owner and operator of Murrieta's cameras—was behind the lawsuit.

"Why would a billion-dollar company sue two citizens of Murrieta?" White quizzed. "I want to say this to the citizen of Murrieta...You better wake up because American Traffic Solutions is coming for you...They want this off the ballot."

Murrieta resident Francis Burns urged the city to pay to defend its citizens.

"I would say if money is an issue you have found ways in the past," Burns said.

Another resident, Susan Kalina, questioned how much the city pays each month for the operation of the cameras located at Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads and Nutmeg Street and Clinton Keith Road.

"No city account should have the right to approve $20,000 per month for three cameras," Kalina said.

An ex-parte hearing—meant to show cause in the lawsuit—had been scheduled for June 15 but was continued to 9:30 a.m. today in Riverside.

James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:28 PM
The people of Marietta need to vote out all the officials who either supported the cameras or remained "neutral" (pro-camera) about the suit. Jim Walker, NMA
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:32 PM
A-Patriot is correct. Almost all of the people punished with the cameras are safe drivers tricked into split second violations with yellows deliberately and maliciously set too short. They are NOT the drivers who are DUI, distracted, failed to see the police vehicle, etc. and entered the intersection two to five or more seconds into the red when the cross traffic was already in the intersection. Red light cameras are a revenue scam, falsely portrayed to stop the t-bone crashes but actually a money grab from safe drivers. Jim Walker, NMA
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Thanks, Sue K. I hope everyone goes to our website and reads all the research and articles about red light cameras. You might also want to read about speed cameras and speed limits, issues where similar government abuses of proper traffic safety engineering lead to predatory ticketing for revenue - at the expense of less safety. We would like more people to join us in these fights to get ALL traffic laws and ALL enforcement practices based on safety, NEVER on revenue. Jim Walker, NMA
Jim June 25, 2012 at 07:09 AM
I finally had a chance to watch the tape of the council meeting. I can understand why the council didn't want to spend city money to defend the initiative, but I cannot understand why the mayor went way out of his way to eject the guy who was in the back of the room clapping. There was no evidence it was interfering with the meeting.
James C. Walker June 25, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Adding one second to the yellow intervals normally drops the violation rates by 60% to 90+% without the need to pick the pockets of residents and visitors at $476 a pop. The problem with this simple solution is that it is NOT profitable for the city. Georgia passed a law requiring an "extra" second of yellow" at all camera intersections and violations dropped by 70% to 80%, enough that most cameras were removed. There is one, and only one, reason to use cameras instead of safer, longer yellows and that reason is $$$$$$$$$$. Jim Walker, NMA

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