If allegations of fraud in the town’s speed camera program turn out to be true, Riverdale Park could have to reimburse about $5 million to drivers issued speeding tickets through the program, a large sum for a town with an annual budget of just more than $6 million.
A Riverdale Park police officer claims officials allowed his signature to be forged on an unknown number of speed camera citations dating back to 2010.
Cpl. Clay Alford, a four-year veteran of the force, was suspended Aug. 8, said his lawyer, Timothy Leahy, after claiming that civilians were authorizing speed camera citations using his log-in information and signature, and that his supervisors on the force were aware of the practice. Leahy said he believes the suspension was retaliatory.
FOX 5 first reported the story after Leahy filed a class action lawsuit Aug. 6 on behalf of two drivers who received speed camera tickets.
Mayor Vernon Archer and town attorney Fred Sussman declined to comment on the lawsuit, adding that the town has a policy not to speak about personnel or legal matters. Police Chief David Morris could not be reached for comment.
The 2006 Maryland statute that authorized speed cameras was amended in 2009 to require speed camera citations to include a signed statement by a police officer.
The lawsuit, filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, includes emails dated in May 2010 and January 2011 between Alford and civilian enforcement officers in which they discuss “clearing out” citation approvals between themselves and their supervisors. When a large volume of citations needed to be approved, Alford and non-police officers split up the citations and processed them, the emails indicate.
The lawsuit calls for the town to refund the $40 fines to anyone who paid a ticket that had not been approved by an officer.
Brentwood, which has a contract with the same camera operators — Sigma Space Corporation and Optotraffic — refunded more than 3,500 tickets in 2010 when the person issuing the tickets was not officially a police officer.
“Riverdale Park has a bigger problem because they’ve been doing this knowingly for several years,” Leahy said.
Leahy said he believes the town could be saving money by allowing civilian processors to approve citations, because they make less money than a police officer.
Since the speed cameras were installed in January 2010, the town has made more than $2.4 million from the program, according to town budget documents. Town officials did not immediately return calls for the exact number of speed cameras.
Leahy said he estimates the fines issued total about $5 million, based on tax documents submitted to the state by the town. It could take up to a year to get a hearing, Leahy said.
“[Riverdale Park’s] problem is not the civil lawsuit,” said Leahy. “They have people within the town’s power structure that make really bad decisions.”