Gurnee has been stiffed on about $1.5 million in red-light camera violation fines and has turned to a state agency in the hope of getting money from the deadbeats.
Village board trustees this week voted in favor of joining the Illinois comptroller office's Local Debt Recovery Program. Village Finance Director Diane Lembesis said it's estimated 20 percent to 50 percent of what's owed to Gurnee could be recovered through the comptroller.
Under the law effective since 2012, local governmental units -- including villages, townships, fire protection districts, community colleges and libraries -- may enter into an agreement with the comptroller's office. It administers the program by diverting money from state-issued paychecks, tax refunds, commercial vendor payments or lottery winnings. There is no cap to how much debt can be recovered in one lump sum from tax refunds, lottery winnings or commercial payment checks. However, the amount recovered from each state payroll check can't exceed 25 percent of an employee's net income, according to the comptroller's office. Anyone who claims to have been unfairly targeted has 60 days to dispute the debt recovery and provide supporting documents.
Parking tickets, permits, fines, red-light camera violations, water bills and other charges levied by Gurnee are eligible for collection under the comptroller's program. However, Village Administrator Patrick Muetz said, the $1.5 million owed from the photo enforcement of intersections is of the most concern. Gurnee's red-light cameras debuted in 2009.
"Obviously, there are a lot (of outstanding tickets) hanging out there," Muetz told the village board.
The camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., received a second, three-year deal with Gurnee that started in July 2012. The company recently has been embroiled in a scandal related to its deal with Chicago that is resulting in it being replaced as the vendor there.
Under the Gurnee contract, Redflex is to receive a minimum of $552,000 for its cameras at five intersections in each of the next two years. A contract provision states Gurnee never will be required to pay Redflex more than what's received in photo enforcement fines.
Lembesis said Gurnee's participation in the comptroller's debt recovery assistance will supplement Redflex's current efforts to collect outstanding fines. Redflex uses a collection agency to go after deadbeats.
Photo-enforcement tickets carry a $100 fine but are not considered moving violations. Vehicle owners, not drivers, are cited and they have a chance to appeal before a hearing officer hired by the village.