About 20,000 Could Get Refunds Of Traffic Camera Tickets In Cedar Rapids Settlement
CEDAR RAPIDS – Some 20,000 people cited for speeding or red lights in Cedar Rapids are said to be eligible for refunds in a class action settlement filed in Linn County District Court on Monday.
The settlement, which is yet to be reviewed by the court, would waive or refund $ 17 million that the city of Cedar Rapids attempted to collect on unpaid speed camera tickets issued between March 2010 and August 31, 2018.
That would amount to $ 2.9 million in reimbursement for fines and late fees paid as part of a December 2017 fundraising initiative, and the cancellation of the remaining $ 14 million for 177,000 unpaid tickets.
“Literally hundreds of thousands of Iowans will benefit if the court approves the settlement,” Simon Conway, conservative radio host and main complainant, said on the WHO-AM 1040 on Friday.
Conway, one of those who received a ticket, declined to comment further until the settlement was made official. It is not known when the court can review the agreement.
Ten named plaintiffs have sued the city and its collection agency, Municipal Collections of America, challenging the legality of demanding payment for some 221,000 old tickets – claiming it exceeded a one-year statute of limitations – and creating claims. 25 percent late fee for those who did not respond within 45 days of receipt of notice.
The city appears to be caving in on both of these points by waiving the remaining uncollected debt and offering repayments to anyone who paid the late fees.
For those who still have not paid in response to the 2017 collection notice, the city sent the debt to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services compensation program, under which tax refunds on the state revenues were withheld to settle the debt.
The lawsuit challenged the use of the compensation program, but the settlement did not directly address it. Cedar Rapids officials say they are not currently using the compensation program, but reserve the right to do so in the future.
Cedar Rapids officials have previously said they settled in to save time and money and noted that neither party has admitted to wrongdoing. In addition, the money to cover the refunds had been set aside from what was collected after the complaint was filed in 2018.
The city’s automated traffic camera program, which includes cameras at nine locations, including four on Interstate 380, has survived multiple court challenges and would not be affected by the settlement.
“The cameras are still legal,” said Greg Buelow, public safety spokesperson for Cedar Rapids. “You have to hold people responsible for speeding or red lights. This is criminal justice 101. If you want to change your behavior, there has to be punishment and swift action or else there is no incentive to follow through.
The traffic camera program is set to issue 311,121 banknotes this fiscal year based on the most recent monthly report, which would add more than $ 23.4 million in revenue if everyone paid – well beyond- above the city’s projection of $ 4.7 million.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs would receive up to 25 percent, or $ 733,007, of the refund amount. Defense attorneys’ fees are not included in the proposed settlement.
Unclaimed refunds would revert to the city, under the proposed settlement.
Those who paid the debt directly – and not by force through the compensation program – would “not receive any relief,” plaintiffs’ lawyer James Larew told the WHO radio show. .
“We hope that the court will approve the proposed settlement agreement which has been accepted by all parties,” he told The Gazette. “We believe it is in the best interests of vehicle owners and defendants.”
The number of class members seems to be a moving target.
The settlement document identifies 20,090 group members, but the city maintains the number has been revised down to 18,625 and continues to be subject to revisions.
Class members would be eligible for a reimbursement of up to $ 599 less 25% for attorney fees. People who received a single $ 75 ticket – the most common fine – plus the 25% late fine would get a refund of around $ 70. Some of the group had multiple tickets.
The exact amount of reimbursements is not specified in the regulations.
Those eligible for refunds would be contacted by a supplier, First Class Inc., hired by the city.
The timing of class members’ notification remains pending pending court approval of the settlement, a fairness hearing and potential appeals. After being contacted, class members would be expected to make a claim to receive the money, and checks would be issued within 10 days of a final judgment.
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Speed cameras are attached to a traffic sign as traffic moves northbound along Interstate 380 near the Diagonal Dr. SW exit on Friday, May 21, 2010, in Cedar Rapids. The cameras will record the speeding tickets and issue a ticket for the violation. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)