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Second violation emerges for red-light camera critic
Questions emerge on how information got out
By John Patterson | Daily Herald Staff

Dan Duffy

 

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Published: 3/17/2010 12:01 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - The suburban senator leading efforts to abolish red-light cameras has been ticketed at least twice by the devices in Schaumburg.

A video of Lake Barrington Republican Dan Duffy cruising through a right turn on red on Jan. 7, 2009, was played this week for a Senate committee considering changes to red-light camera enforcement laws.

And while Duffy denounced the broadcast as political intimidation meant to shut him up, Schaumburg records indicate he incurred a second citation at the same intersection that same week. The videos and supporting documentation were provided to the Daily Herald in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the same way Senate Democrats received the information.

"I actually got two tickets at that corner," Duffy said of the intersection at Meacham and Woodfield roads in Schaumburg. "I received them in the mail within a day or two of each other. That's all my tickets."

But a lingering question at the Capitol was how these videos ever got out in the first place. Republicans pointed to a section of that law says the recorded images are "confidential," available only to police and government to resolve the case, compile statistics or "for other governmental purposes."

According to the records obtained by the Daily Herald, a top campaign aide to Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, initially sought the videos on March 5. Schaumburg officials contacted the firm that ran the red-light cameras in the village and within days, the videos and supporting documents were turned over.

Schaumburg no longer uses red-light cameras and the intersection in question gained national notoriety as a moneymaker for this type of enforcement, spurring criticism that the cameras are about money, not public safety.

Cullerton said he learned of Duffy's violation from a February Daily Herald story in which, upon being asked by a reporter, Duffy said he'd wrongfully received a ticket in Schaumburg and claimed he'd stopped behind the line and inched forward.

The video played Monday showed Duffy's car slowing somewhat but never coming to a full stop in going through a red light while turning right. The second video, which depicts a violation that occurred two days earlier, shows Duffy's car doing the same, though at a slower speed.

The events occurred just days before Duffy would be sworn in as a state senator to begin his first term.

The Senate President pointed to a portion of the red-light camera law that allows the videos to be turned over for "governmental purposes."

"It was obviously used for government purposes," said Cullerton, who acknowledged red-light cameras in Chicago had cited his own vehicle and that he'd paid the fines without contest.

A Schaumburg attorney said the request for the videos was reviewed, nothing was found in the Freedom of Information Act to exempt the information, so it was turned over. However, upon further review of the red-light laws, assistant village attorney Rita Elsner, said Tuesday the policy would change.

"We will be updating our rules to make sure no others are released," Elsner said.

Duffy took issue with the release, saying the research should have occurred before the videos were made public.

"I think this is all diverting attention away from the true issue," Duffy said. "A part of this is Big Brother watching you all the time."