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Editorial: Sacramento supervisors need more answers to green-light camera contract

Sacramento County officials and Sheriff Scott Jones should get a ticket themselves for how they’ve mishandled a lucrative contract for red-light cameras.

They should have informed the county Board of Supervisors that the company in line to install, maintain and operate the cameras is entangled in a bribery scandal in Chicago. Supervisors shouldn’t have had to find out from The Bee.

Unbelievably, the contract renewal with Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems was placed on the supervisors’ Dec. 10 consent agenda – for routine business that is typically done without any board discussion or public debate. Ultimately, the agenda is set by the office of County Executive Brad Hudson.

Even after last week’s story by The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, the contract still is planned for the consent agenda, a county spokesman told The Bee’s editorial board on Monday.

That would be a big mistake. This is not a routine matter; it is an item that supervisors should debate and decide in full public view.

This is no small piece of business. At stake is a contract for three to seven years valued at $6.5 million to $11 million. Redflex has held the current contract since 2008 and is being paid $1.3 million a year.

The county awards the contract and has a memorandum of understanding with the city of Sacramento for cameras inside the city limits. There are cameras at 26 major intersections, with plans to install them at 14 more. The Sheriff’s Department runs the program for the city and county. The department says that between November 2012 and the end of October, nearly 78,000 violations were recorded, leading to more than 20,200 citations.

Redflex has acknowledged improper payments and gifts to the city official in charge of Chicago’s red-light camera program, but says the employees involved, including four top executives, are no longer with the company. After meeting with Redflex officials, the Sheriff’s Department says it is satisfied with the steps the company has taken and confident that the company is not corrupt.

But that isn’t the end of it.

One of the three losing bidders for the Sacramento contract has filed an official protest. ATS, which came in second in the staff ranking, says that Redflex should have been given a higher “risk” rating because of the scandal. The Chicago Tribune, which broke what it describes as a $2 million bribery scheme, says that Redflex is under federal investigation.

Certainly, that should be enough for asking some pointed questions – and getting honest answers in public. Even if Sheriff Jones and county staffers somehow don’t believe that’s necessary, supervisors should step in and make it their business. Their duty to be responsible stewards of taxpayers’ money demands no less.