UPPER MARLBORO – On May 23, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge ruled the town of Morningside broke the law when town officials refused to provide information about its speed camera program in a timely manner. Judge Albert Northrop ruled in favor of Ron Ely, a Gaithersburg resident, saying in his order the speed […]
UPPER MARLBORO – On May 23, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge ruled the town of Morningside broke the law when town officials refused to provide information about its speed camera program in a timely manner.
Judge Albert Northrop ruled in favor of Ron Ely, a Gaithersburg resident, saying in his order the speed camera records must be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act, even if they are held by a contractor.
“The judge essentially agreed with my position that the town’s response is inadequate,” Ely said. “This is not the first time that we’ve encountered trouble getting access to speed camera records or that somebody else has had trouble getting access to them.”
Ely, chairman of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, made his first MPIA request in June 2013 requesting information about Morningside’s calibration records.
“We had some complaints from people who got tickets and didn’t think they were accurate,” Ely said. “We had some other jurisdictions that had calibration as a contractor who had some discrepancies in their calibration records so we filed a request to get that information about their calibration procedures to see if it was in compliance with the state law.”
Todd Pounds, attorney for Morningside, did not respond to the request for almost two months. The Maryland Public Information Act requires jurisdictions to turn over the information in 30 days or less, or provide legitimate denials within a 10-day timeframe.
When Pounds responded Aug. 2, 2013, he refused to provide the information to Ely, saying the town did not have any of the records because the speed cameras were managed by Brekford Corporation, an outside entity.
According to transportation article §21-809 of the Maryland code, a speed camera operator must fill out and sign a daily set-up log for a speed monitoring system and keep the records on file.
The speed cameras must also undergo an annual calibration check performed by an independent calibration laboratory and keep the signed certificate of calibration on file.
According to Judge Albert Northrop’s order, Morningside “failed to maintain the requested records, conduct a reasonable search for the records, or provide [Ely] with the name and possible location of a possible custodian,” pursuant to the law.
“If Respondent had been compliant this lawsuit would not have been necessary,” Northrop wrote in the court order.
Ely is also entitled to collect counsel fees and other court costs incurred during the lawsuit, Northrop wrote.
Since Ely made his request, Morningside has shut down its speed camera program indefinitely after not renewing its contract with Brekford.
The decision “had nothing to do with this lawsuit and it had nothing to do with performance,” Pounds said in a previous report by The Sentinel.
The judge’s decision could affect other jurisdictions, Ely said.
“What it means is that (jurisdictions) have to be transparent,” Elysaid. “The court has made clear in the public interest ensuring that the public has access to information about these programs.”
Pounds did not respond to repeated requests for comment.