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Lawsuit Targets Murrieta Red-Light Camera Initiative

A hearing was scheduled for this morning in Riverside Superior Court, while another party filed a fair political practices complaint against the proponents of the lawsuit meant to stop the initiative from appearing on the November ballot.

A Murrieta man is the lead petitioner in a lawsuit filed by a Sacramento law firm in an attempt to get off the November ballot.

Steve Flynn is being represented by Charles H. Bell, Jr., of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk in the lawsuit filed June 5.

Flynn was a Public Safety and Traffic commissioner for the city of Murrieta when the red-light cameras were installed. He told Patch Thursday that he began asking for the cameras when, as the owner of the former Hollywood Video on California Oaks Road, customers came in daily and complained about drivers running red lights.

As the commission chair at the time, Flynn said he took up the cause.

"I started going out and seeing what I could do. I went to the police and to city council," Flynn said.

Within a year, the cameras were up at three Murrieta intersections: Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita road, and Clinton Keith Road and Nutmeg Street.

Murrieta resident Diana Serafin was successful in her petition to get the measure on November's ballot that would ban the city from using the cameras.

Serafin alleges the city is losing money on the cameras, to the tune of $58,000 every three months to operate them. She alleges the city nets $30 per $490 ticket, while the rest goes to the state and the camera company.

It is also a violation of civil rights, Serafin claims.

"This is a scam and that is why I jumped on it," she said.

Polar opposites in their opinions, Flynn and Serafin have both been featured on AM 640 KFI's "John and Ken Show" this week.

The Pacific Justice Institute has agreed to help fight the lawsuit. Serafin learned through them that an ex-parte hearing—meant to show cause in order to speed up the trial process—was set for 9:30 a.m. Friday in Riverside.

Among those named in the suit are Serafin, co-petitioner Robin Nielson, Murrieta City Clerk Kay Vinson, Riverside County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

By placing the measure on the ballot, the law firm alleges that the city is in violation of its powers.

"Placement of the initiative on the...ballot would violate the California Constitution...because the initiative is beyond the power of the electorate to enact," the lawsuit states. "...Municipal governments like the city of Murrieta...may only regulate municipal affairs, not matters of statewide concern...Under California law, the Legislature can limit the exercise of initiative power in matters of statewide concern."

Flynn said he was approached by the Sacramento law firm to sign the lawsuit, which also represents the California Republican Party. He said they have until 88 days before the election to be successful in getting the initiative removed.

"I believe in this cause," Flynn said.

Serafin questioned who is paying the firm for its time, implying it could be American Traffic Systems—the company that owns and manages the red-light cameras in Murrieta.

In statements to The Press-Enterprise and The Californian, ATS denied its involvement in the lawsuit.

Flynn said he has not talked with ATS since 2005 when the city decided to install the cameras.

Attorney Bell could not immediately be reached for comment on the case late Thursday.

In another development this week, Bob Kowell, who led the 2010 effort for Murrieta Measures C, D and E, has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission against Flynn and his attorney.

Kowell alleges Flynn and Bell are violating the Political Reform Act by not forming a political action committee in their quest to get the initiative stopped.

"Since this is a political issue, I don't see how Flynn and Bell can make this complaint without (that) in place," Kowell wrote in his complaint. "The Murrieta Measure has a PAC—the Limited Government PAC—to track money. In the case of Flynn and Attorney Charles Bell, no one can find out who is funding the lawsuit to stop the measure from being put on the ballot.

"Also, Flynn and Bell are not really suing the city or Kay Vinson, they are suing the 6,000+ people who signed the petition. They are suing the people."

The —with an additional 32 signatures. Serafin said more than 6,000 signed, but about 1,500 signatures were invalidated because of the high foreclosure rate.

"They weren't aware they needed to re-register to vote when they moved and switched addresses," Serafin said.

But Serafin said "it is no longer about the cameras."

"It is about taking away our constitutional right to petition the government," she said.

Flynn alleges Serafin lied to citizens to gather more signatures.

"If people were really behind this, she would of gathered thousands of more signatures," Flynn said. "These citizens do not want lies. They want the truth."

Serafin claims she has not lied.

"Everything I did, I can prove," Serafin said, noting she took much of her information from documents obtained from the city through a public records request.

Meanwhile, Murrieta police are launching a public information campaign about the red-light cameras. Fliers will be distributed at the Father's Day Car Show on Sunday, according to Murrieta police Sgt. Jay Froboese. And a 30-minute video about the red-light cameras will be aired on Verizon channel 33 as well as posted on the city's website, he said.

"When we installed the cameras, the camera company told us that driving behaviors would change citywide," Froboese said. "We believe the citizens of Murrieta have changed."

There were 11 traffic fatalities in Murrieta in 2005 prior to the cameras being installed, he said. The following year, there was one.

He cited a dramatic drop in tickets at the respective intersections—from 5,100 tickets a month combined in 2005 to 121 a month combined in September 2011.

Froboese also said 72 percent of those ticketed at the intersections do not reside in Murrieta.

"What that says is Murrieta residents are not running the lights but others who are coming into our city are."

Additionally, he said 98 percent of those ticketed do not get cited a second time.

Froboese sought to clarify that the city, the Police Department nor ATS "have anything to do with the lawsuit."

"We want the initiative before the people; we want them to have their say," Froboese said. "But we want the information—the truth—to be out there. Our effort now is to show how the program has been exceptionally run. It was about safety from the beginning and not what you see on the Internet about red-light cameras."

kristin c June 15, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I can't believe big brother exists at traffic camera level. Maybe sera fin would like to post police officers at the intersections in question instead. It wouldn't cost as much and the revenue generated would stay local. Regardless people who don't obey rules of the road need to be penalized. It is a safety issue. And another stop light I would love to see enforced is the haun/Newport intersection in menifee. Every time I sit at that light 4-5 cars run the left turn light after our light turns green. Ridiculous.
Johnny June 15, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Serafin is a liar. The reason she started this petition is because a friend of hers received a ticket and had to pay the fine. How do I know this.... she told me this in February 2011 when she first began the petition drive. Back in 2011 she never said it violated our rights. Now, many months later she has many more excuses why she supports getting rid of the red light cameras (after Bob Kowell got involved?). Red light cameras save LIVES! If you don't run the light, you won't receive a ticket. It's that simple.
Shawn Michael Bennett June 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Anybody ever watch the intersection at Ynez and Overland? I place bets with co-workers on the way back from lunch on how man A-holes will make it through the red light. Its funny how blatant people are.....on another note I assume these are the same people stopping while entering the mall where there are NO Stop signs.
kristin c June 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Lol... I was at one of the stop signs on the street that circles the mall and two cars would go instead of one across from me so when it was my turn I went. There was a second car that tried to go and i wouldn't let her. She actually honed at me and it was my right if way!
Rob June 15, 2012 at 06:48 PM
The PEOPLE signe a PETITION to get this on the ballot. ONE former PUBLIC OFFICIAL CRONY, who installed them (investigate the relationship) is tryng to block the peoples WILL to VOTE on the matter. Steve Flynn - traitor, scumbag, low-life creton. Hey pal you do not speak for ALL, just your pitiful self. We want to vote on the measure. It may pass, it may not, but this is not your right to decide for us. LA gets rid of the red lights. Loma Linda extends the yellow and red light violations, and accidents are reduced by 90+%. BAN THE SCAM! MURRIETA - Look up the salaries folks. You are getting ripped off! 34% make over $100K/year. The top cops over $200K/year. The tickets = pay days, not safety. Heck they have 6 wirth pensions over $100K http://www.fixpensionsfirst.com/calpers-database/?first_name=&last_name=&employer=MURRIETA
B-Cat June 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
it will be abused and used to raise $$$$$ for the city. It always happens, never fails. No one likes to be spied on whatever the reason. We are about to enter an age [if we let it] where machines control our lives. Its always for what some believe are the right reasons and to some degree it is. But the fallacy here is that man thinks he is in control, the system lets him believe that--------but he is not. Its like a drug, it becomes an obsession, soon more units of control go in, more $$$$$$$$ and the people that think they control it become drunk with power and the machine grows, And you and i must obey and bow down to the master control. And what happens to those that created the monster? by then they are gone, but your here dealing with the consequences and paying and paying and paying.............Get the damn thing outta there.
Ronald Heitzman June 15, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Keeps us motorists honest @ Keith&Nutmeg. They make me nervous but they do work!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 15, 2012 at 07:01 PM
they are not costing us anything ... and any money they make for the city goes to pay for them! Get your facts STRAIGHT!!
B-Cat June 15, 2012 at 07:19 PM
My comment was not about and never mentioned the cost to the taxpayers the red light units. It was all about being aware of things that could come to pass that have an affect on citizens and their daily lives. Please read what is written, not what your initial knee jerk reaction to what you thought was.
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 15, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I did see your comment .. but I think you are on the deep end .. no one makes decisions for us .. I think Mr.. Flynn is doing this because he is tired of people suing the city for something that is helping lives in our city ... bottom line B-Cat .. is that those red light cameras are ...LIFE SAVERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B-Cat June 15, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Thank you Cathy and i do understand why you might think that it might be off the deep end but awareness of the fact it has the possibility of happening isnt a bad thing. Mr. Flynn i believe is acting with all good intentions im sure but as there are people that drive with confidence there are those that don't. With that being said, I have seen and im sure you have as well, people that over-react, and that causes accidents. Perhaps the time it takes for a light to change makes all the difference. I think we are both on the same side here with different possible solutions to a problem. Thank You
Fauntleroy Murphy June 15, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I was adamantly against the red light cameras when they were installed. I saw numerous rear end collisions caused by these cameras. I also whole heartedly believe people will run red lights whether they are installed or not. People not paying attention are typically the ones who run red lights, cause accidents and deaths. All I could see was the amount of property damage and no benefit. I watched the police chiefs presentation on the subject, then studied the intersections and found the rear end collisions had all but ceased. Now my stance is: I don’t think they are the big life saver everyone else does but I don’t believe they are causing us harm. The city isn’t making a killing in revenue on them either. So at this point I’ve moved the issue to my “don’t sweat the small stuff” list.
Ciro Canale June 15, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Red light cameras doesn't cure reckless driving or stupidity. They care less about your safety. It's all about the $$$$$.
Fauntleroy Murphy June 15, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Thank you for claiming to know how I prioritize my list, you have no idea what's even on my list. I personally prefer to keep my comments related to the issues and articles written. Making assumptions regarding others who comment would be nothing short of irresponsible.
Jamie Alvarez June 16, 2012 at 12:30 AM
If these red light cameras stay they should at least put them where there's most traffic like cal oaks!! Or near schools..It only makes sense! Police officers are always around when there's traffic the cameras shouldn't be at intersections where u don't have to stop at every other block.. It's hard to be driving 45-50 mph and u have to slam ur breaks to avoid a camera flash!! The slightest move can trigger the flash! Once a pedistrian was walking across and the camera just went off!! Does he get a ticket for walking across with his bike? I think murrieta has better things to invest in!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Gee Roy... you can prove that? If not .. man if I were Mr. Flynn.. I would be pursuing a lawsuit against you!! Be careful Mr. Holmgren!!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM
you are wrong - at the intersection of Murrieta Hot Springs and Alta ... a very dear friend of mine got hit .. not one time but twice at that same intersection ... prior to those red light cameras being placed there. Since those accidents he cant drive anymore ... I think alot of you are saying things that you can be liable for... be careful .. we live in a sue crazy society!!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 01:53 PM
ouch but thanks for the information regarding him!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Alvarez .. I think that is the next idea ... as I have always said .. we need many more of them .. and I think if I am correct Cal Oaks is next! I don't think we as tax payers can afford the man power in the police department we need to have vs these wonderful red light cameras!!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 01:58 PM
oh, Mr. Cline .. those statistics to me sound like something is working ... look its working people .. its really working! Those lights had and have only ONE purpose to help accidents/deaths/etc. to cease .. they are working. The city is not making money on them its breaking even.
Jackson June 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Wake up B-cat...technology/machines have controlled our lives for a very long time. City doesn't make money, the state is, which is needed, and if so many people didn't break the law, this wouldn't even be an argument. Look at the decrease of tickets and fatalities. The numbers say it all.
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 05:11 PM
and I Mr. Cline .. agree. I am all about ..(if you read above) saving lives!!! Thank you though for making my point for me!
Cathy Neumann-Bearse June 16, 2012 at 05:15 PM
just saying here...if you take the time to get off your "big brother watching us" stage and really contemplate... these things are saving our families, friends, neighbors lives. To me that is what is the most important thing of all ... again I saw a man who was a school teacher my age who now looks twice his age from being hit not one but two times at the same intersection. I am tired of us putting lives on the back burner because we are so paranoid about "BIG BROTHER"! Lives are far more important that being paranoid!!!
Jackson June 16, 2012 at 09:13 PM
you two boys need to take this somewhere else. Seriously! How do people get so off track on their comments on the Patch. One minute we are talking red light cameras, next stalkers and restraining orders...WTH?
Bart Simpson June 16, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Red light cameras suck because they are NOT fair for left turns. If you are at a stop making a left turn, you are not given enough time to get through the intersection typically as cars in front of you tend to slow in the intersection when turning. Typically on the Whitewood cam intersection (depending on time of day as the timings change), only 2 cars can make a safe left turn, if you are the third or fourth car, and it is green when you cross the line it will damn near get you in the intersection as it doesnt wait long enough on yellow for a trail of slow left turning cars. This is very different than if you were doing 40mph going strait through the intersection, in that case, the yellow light time would be appropriate as you are moving much faster and can clear the intersection, This problem seems to be never addressed in these discussions, but is a problem that is unfair.
Stephen June 18, 2012 at 05:25 PM
You know LA said the same thing on RLC "preventing' fatals. HERE IS WHAT THE LAPD/ATS LEFT OUT! http://www.skyvalleychronicle.com/FEATURE-NEWS/HOW-ONE-MAN-DID-THE-HEAVY-LIFTING-THAT-KILLED-L-A-s-RED-LIGHT-TICKET-PROGRAM-br-And-what-lessons-may-be-learned-by-Monroe-and-other-cities-750067 Quote: For example, one LAPD claim was that five fatal accidents occurred at specific intersections before the red-light cameras were installed, and none occurred after. Reality: two of the five accidents were not red light related, he says, and a third involved a drunken driver who zipped through despite a camera there, mounted by a previous vendor. The fourth, "caused by a young distracted driver," likely would not have been prevented by a camera. "They were suggesting the cameras were stopping fatalities," he says, "but the examples they gave would not have been stopped by a red-light camera," said Beeber. end quote: THIS GAME of saying a RLC "will stop" a fatal has BEEN PLAYED BEFORE! SO COME ON, HOW MANY CRASHES WERE RLR CASUED, and what was the underlying CAUSE??? DUI, Fleeing police, not paying attention?? WHAT ELSE HAS MURRIETA (and likely the scamera vendor, left out of the "report" http://retiredpublicsafety.com/wp/a-fac​tual-look-at-the-red-light-camera-progr​am-in-kansas-city-mo-2) www.motorists.org www.banthecams.org camerafraud on Facebook
Stephen June 18, 2012 at 07:00 PM
ATS have "nothing" to do with the suit eh??? Why don't we see what ATS did over in WA state! http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/35/3553.asp "In November, 71 percent of voters said they wanted nothing to do with the photo ticketing program that the city could had approved on May 17, 2010. By June, Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman began circulating a petition to overturn the ordinance and by July 19, 2010 the city council had no choice but to place the initiative on the ballot (although it converted the item into an "advisory" measure without disclosing this change on any of the ballot material). On the same day, "Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government" filed suit to block the vote from happening. Court documents describe this group as "an unincorporated association of Mukilteo residents." As the emails obtained by the Herald show, this "association" was wholly created by ATS. "We would like to get the Eyman initiative stopped before it goes to vote," Kroske wrote to Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine on July 14. "We have hired a strong Seattle attorney firm, but they need a Mukilteo resident to use for the filing. They could use the mayor, in his official capacity, as the defendant in a declaratory judgment action, but a resident might look better. So we need your help here. Do you know someone who agrees with stopping this action and would be will(ing) to have us file under their name? We need to submit the filing by Friday, so we need to make the decision today."
David Shisler June 19, 2012 at 01:42 AM
This is for Bart Simpson, If you get into an intersection on a yellow light, you're not in voilation of the red light law. If you're headed straight and the lights green, and the roadway is blocked with traffic up ahead,and you can't clear the intersection, don't enter the intersection, if you're making a left turn don't enter on a yellow unless there is room for you to complete the turn,and clear the intersection, this is the anti-gridlock law. If you entered the intersection making a left on green,or yellow because there is room for you to clear the intersection, usually you have to wait for opposing traffic to clear and sometimes are unable to proceed through the intersection till you have a red light stopping opposing traffic, no violation. Traffic receiving a green light must wait for all traffic legally within the intersection to clear before proceeding. For example a big rig crosses the limit line to the intersection before the light turns red, you get a green light, you must wait for the big rig to clear the intersection before proceeding, this could take some time depending on its speed, you might even feel that he must have run a red light, but he didn't, no voilation. Actually its not easy for an officer to write red light tickets, he needs to be in a position to observe light colors and apprehend the violator, cameras are a great solution.
James C. Walker June 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
In almost every case, simply adding 1.0 seconds to the yellow intervals on the lights will reduce the red light violations by MORE than ticket cameras. So, why do cities choose to use cameras instead of safer, longer yellows that work better ??? The rea$on$ citie$ u$e camera$ in$tead of $afer and longer yellow$ i$ obviou$ to mo$t ob$erver$, and the rea$on$ do not include $afety. See the science and investigative research on our website. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI
David Shisler June 20, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I went to James C Walker web site National Motorists Association, one thing they state,"motorist don't casually drive through red lights". Horse picky, we have drivers that have the inconsiderate screw you I'm going through attitude, especially left turn and right turn voilators after the light been red for some time. Usually they don't cause accidents, they just stick it to the rest of the motoring public that have to wait for their sorry ass to clear the intersection. Keep the cameras.

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