Oakbrook Terrace red-light cameras lawsuit gets continuance


The red-light cameras at Route 83 and 22nd Street in Oakbrook Terrace will continue to operate, likely at least until May 2023, after a DuPage County judge issued a second continuance Monday for an Oakbrook Terrace lawsuit.

The first continuance came Oct. 17, also from Judge Craig Belford. A status hearing is set for February, but no additional ruling on the case is expected until May.

After being ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation in May to deactivate, and then remove, the cameras, Oakbrook Terrace filed a lawsuit June 1, claiming the IDOT overstepped its authority for the cameras used for southbound traffic on Route 83 and eastbound traffic on 22nd Street, just outside of Oakbrook Center.

Oakbrook Terrace claimed it was issued a needed permit by IDOT for the installation of the red-light cameras, but that once the system was installed, IDOT has no authority to regulate operation.

Belford issued an Aug. 22 orders, allowing Oakbrook Terrace to reactivate the red-light cameras.

Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani wasn’t pleased with another delay that came with Monday’s continuance, which allows Oakbrook Terrace to continue to generate revenue from red-light camera violations while the cameras operate.

“The saga regarding the Oakbrook Terrace’s red light cameras has gone on far too long, and the courts need to finally put an end to this matter,” Lalmalani said. “No camera installed a direct result of bribery should be permitted to stand.”

Martin Sandoval, former chair of the state’s Transportation Committee, pleaded guilty in January 2020 to bribery and tax charges. Sandoval died in December 2020.

The charges against Sandoval stemmed from his involvement with SafeSpeed, a red-light camera operator. Sandoval was admitted in federal court to taking more than a combined quarter of a million dollars in bribes in exchange for his political influence or official action, including at least $70,000 in from a SafeSpeed ​​representative who was working with authorities. SafeSpeed ​​installed and operates Oakbrook Terrace cameras.

Others, including former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci, have been charged in connection with the red-light cameras.

According to federal prosecutors, the year before the cameras became operational, Ragucci was paid off as part of a scheme in which the red-light camera firm paid a 14% commission on revenue generated on the cameras to another firm it had hired as a “ sales consultant” to get village business. That consulting firm’s officials then paid a portion of the commission to Ragucci, first $3,500 a month, then an amount based on how much cash the cameras generated, the prosecutors alleged.

Ragucci also directly accepted $12,500 cash from an official of the red-light camera firm as contracts were renewed, unaware that the official was secretly working with federal investigators on a wide-ranging corruption probe, prosecutors alleged.

Village Board member Michael Manzo, who has been the most outspoken Oak Brook official against the red-light cameras, was also disappointed by another continuance.

“Meanwhile Oakbrook Terrace continues to implement any and every stall tactic available to them, so they can continue to make money off these cameras at the expense of Illinois motorists,” Manzo said.

He said he is committed to continuing Oak Brook’s fight to remove the cameras.

“The red light camera companies and their political allies are afraid to set precedent with the removal of these red-light cameras,” Manzo said. “Given the wide spread nature of this corruption, if these cameras were to be removed because of the bribery involved in the process, then almost every camera in the state would have to follow suit.”

Village Manager Greg Summers said he was pleased that Judge Belford denied Oakbrook Terrace’s argument Monday to introduce new evidence into the matter “in an obvious attempt to flood the case file with more data for review; thereby delaying any decision.”

“Thankfully, Judge Belford properly concluded that all necessary evidence was already in the record and ordered IDOT to file their case brief based on that evidence,” Summers said. “I am severely disappointed by the protracted timeline as this progresses through the court, but pleased that Judge Belford has set a final time frame for a decision.”

The cameras, which became operational in August 2017, had been in use for southbound traffic on Route 83 and eastbound traffic on 22nd Street and generated more than $12 million in revenue for Oakbrook Terrace in just under five years via fines for violations.

Maria Castaneda, an IDOT public information officer, said in May that the permit issued to Oakbrook Terrace to operate the red-light cameras was revoked due to failure to comply with the city.

“Despite repeated requests, the city did not submit a post-installation analysis on the effectiveness of the camera system to improve safety at the intersection, as required by the IDOT policy,” Castaneda said.

Chuck Fieldman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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