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Boynton prepared to kill fines from supposedly-dark red light cameras

They were said to be dark. Dead. Blacked out.

But the 15 red-light cameras in Boynton Beach kept on clicking, catching motorists in their archives for when the city on Aug. 4 resurrected their controversial program, suspended because of a court ruling.

The police, going back through 30 days of data, then issued citations to motorists who were told the cameras were inoperable.

And it was all perfectly legal.

But when the practice became public this week, Boynton Beach backtracked.

City spokeswoman Eleanor Krusell said Wednesday that motorists who received traffic violations for the red light camera program from July 4 to Aug. 4 — the last month of the program’s suspension — won’t have to pay the $158 fine.

Violators from that period who already paid the fine will get a refund, she said.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Schuman Padovany, whose 21-year-old son received a ticket in July and paid the fine.

While numerous municipalities — such as Boca Raton — have abandoned red-light cameras, Boynton Beach has stuck to it. The program’s revenue was estimated to be $1.17 million in 2015 before the program was temporarily halted.

Police issued a memo on July 30, saying that in the first month the program was suspended, the cameras archived 1,886 violations, a 37.9 percent increase from May 2014.

“The amount of vehicle crashes also indicates the safety and value of this program,” officer Richard McNevin wrote to City Manager Lori LaVerriere. “Since the program was suspended, there were 58 vehicle crashes, two of them being serious bodily injury cases. The same time frame last year, there were 47. That is an increase of 23.4 percent.”

On April 1, a Palm Beach County judge tossed about 200 citations because the vendor, American Traffic Solutions, was writing tickets, not the police. Boynton Beach argued its officers reviewed those citations, but halted the program.

The cameras, though, continued a zombie-like existence, compiling an archive of violations. When the City Commission voted on Aug. 4 to resume red light camera enforcement, police could go back 30 days by statute and send out notices.

“The modifications agreed upon by the city and ATS were in place when the officers worked the queue,” Krusell said in a statement. “Thus, violators who ran red lights during the prior 30-day time period were issued notices of violation pursuant to the modified program. Such notices of violation were lawfully issued.”

Nevertheless, the city decided to give those motorists a break. Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor said he planned to bring up the issue at the Oct. 6 commission meeting.

“I was told they weren’t going to issue any tickets,” he said. “I think it was a communications issue.”

Padovany said he and his neighbors in the Chapel Hill section of Boynton were surprised when they got tickets in the mail. “They said all the cameras were turned off and then all of a sudden you get a ticket,” he said.

Ticket attorney Ted Hollander said he has evidence showing that the cameras cause more accidents because drivers stop on a dime to avoid getting a ticket and get rear-ended.

Hollander said there also is still the issue of the city shortening the length of yellow lights to increase citations. He has gotten dismissals of citations for the light at Congress and Gateway Boulevard.

As for the most recent drama, he said, “This is just another example of the way Boynton Beach is doing things.”