Electronic Traffic Enforcement ordinance pulled from Gonzales City Council agenda

Gonzales Councilman Tim Riley

On July 11 the City of Gonzales’ Council introduced a six-page, ten-ordinance piece of legislation to enact Electronic Traffic Enforcement (ETE).  Sold by Chief of Police Sherman Jackson as a means to slow down speeding motorists in School Zones, and nothing more, the text of the introduced ordinance contained no limitations on implementation city-wide, School Zone or not.  Scheduled for Public Hearing and a council vote on Monday (July 25), Gonzales Chief Administrative Officer has informed that the ordinance scheme will be pulled from the agenda to allow the City Attorney to work on minor revisions.

“More than minor revisions are needed before I can support the ordinance,” declared Councilman Tim Riley, alone among Gonzales’ elected officialdom to pursue inquiry publicly.  “If, as Chief Jackson said, the Electronic Traffic Enforcement is intended for School Zones, and only School Zones, why isn’t that reflected in the ordinances’ text?”

Does Sherman Jackson have even a shred of credibility left?  Devoting much of his time overseeing concrete pours on the city’s clock, routinely the butt of jokes by GPD’s rank-and-file, maybe it’s time to move on.

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We digress.

Ill-conceived and poorly crafted, the ordinance appears to be the product of Blue Line Solutions, the private contractor seeking to install equipment and operate ETE for the not nominal fee of 40% off the top.  Proof positive that the introduced ordinance was generated from a form in Blue Line Solutions’ files:

Passage from the ordinances introduce on July 11

Conferring standing to the City of Springhill to sue motorists in the non-existent City Court for the City of Gonzales, Louisiana…

is, to be kind, legally dubious.

Included in Blue Line Solutions’ sales brochure, provided to council members and the mayor but not publicly available, is a similar ordinance purportedly adopted by the Town of Homer, Louisiana.  Verbatim in many passages, the version proposed for Gonzales lacks certain of the enforcement limitations rendering the proposed traffic law less onerous for motorists.  Both versions contain the following schedule of fines charged to the subject vehicle owner (not the operator):

Automated Stationary Speed Enforcement (ASE) and Manned Photo Laser (MPL) Systems would be implemented by proposed Ordinance 19-76 which casts “the owner of a vehicle…responsible and liable for a civil violation penalty as set forth (below) when and if the vehicle is traveling at a speed in miles per hour greater than the speed limit.”

  • 1-10 MPH over the limit-$130.00 fine ($188.00 in a School Zone)
  • 11-20 MPH over the limit-$140.00 fine ($212.00 in a School Zone)
  • 21-30 MPH over the limit-$160.00 fine ($237.00 in a School Zone)
  • 31 and above MPH over the limit-$190.00 ($267.00 in a School Zone)

Omitted from Blue Line Solutions’ draft ordinance for the City of Gonzales, are the guidelines established by Louisiana DOTD that recommend issuance of a citation if motorists travel at least six MPH over the posted speed limit.

LADOTD guidelines for traffic citation issuance

“Our citizens should have had access to all the information prior to introducing the ordinance on July 11, giving them a fair opportunity to be heard,” Councilman Riley insisted.  “I know there are numerous questions I’d like to have answered before having to vote.  I applaud Mayor Arceneaux and his administration for pulling the ordinance and hope the public will be afforded ample opportunity to be heard.”

How dire a problem is speeding in School Zones?  Anecdotal assertions based upon second-hand information (it would be excluded hearsay, even in the City Court for the City of Gonzales) from Chief Jackson aside, it behooves the ordinances’ proponents to present a more convincing case.  Supposedly, there was a traffic study performed but not presented for public consideration.

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How about assigning actual traffic cops in the School Zones (enumerated by Jackson to include Orice Roth Rd, Burnside Ave, and Worthey Road)?

“Let’s be crystal clear, nobody is opposed to the enhanced safety of our school children,” Councilman Riley assured.  “And I might be able to support Electronic Traffic Enforcement if there are assurances that the program is strictly limited to School Zones.  No such limitations are included in the draft ordinance.”

Blue Line Solutions’ sales rep was on hand July 11 to declare, “It’s about one thing, and one thing only…to slow individuals down.  And it’s not a money grab.”  Would the company bother if its Automated Stationary Speed Enforcement (ASE) and Manned Photo Laser (MPL) are restricted to School Zones?  Questions abound.

  • What constitutes a School Zone?
  • Are they limited to four hours a day (when students are going to, leaving the campus), five days a week nine months a year?

Tim Riley pointed to several provisions causing concern during a recent interview.

Section 19-77 Late Payments: An owner who fails to pay any civil violation penalty under this Chapter within 30 days from the date of receipt of the civil notice of violation shall be subject to a late payment of %35.00, to be added to the original civil violation amount.  A notice of civil violation under this Article is presumed to have been received on the tenth calendar day after the date of notice of civil violation is mailed.

“I’m no lawyer, but doesn’t that shift the burden of proving receipt, or not, of the notice to the vehicle owner, whether or not that owner was operating the vehicle?” Riley wondered.

Section 19-79 Administrative Adjudication Hearing (A)(1):  A person who receives a notice of civil violation may contest the imposition of the civil penalty by a legible, written request for an administrative adjudication of the notice of civil violation penalty within 30 calendar days after the mailing of the notice…and upon posting a nonrefundable hearing request cash bond of $50.

Tim Riley: Sort of seems like a money grab, especially considering the contesting vehicle owner must pay for transcripts necessary to contest the purported civil violation.

Section 19-79 Administrative Adjudication Hearing (C)(8):  In conducting said adjudications, the hearing officer shall have the following functions, powers and duties: To prescribe regulations for the presentation and the conduct of hearings which need not necessarily be in strict conformity with the usual rules of evidence and civil procedure, however, the fundamental principles governing a fair and impartial hearing or trial and due process of law must be reasonably and substantially followed.

Tim Riley:  That seems like rigging the judicial process against the alleged violators.