Ex-Parking Authority worker had role in new red-light camera contract

A red-light camera along Roosevelt Boulevard.
A red-light camera along Roosevelt Boulevard.
Posted: February 07, 2014

PHILADELPHIA The former manager of Philadelphia's red-light-camera program was hired by Xerox Corp. to help it win the lucrative contract to run the camera program here.

Chris Vogler, a Republican ward leader from Northeast Philadelphia and former manager of the red-light enforcement program for the Philadelphia Parking Authority, worked as a technical consultant for Xerox from September to December "to provide information and background on how photo enforcement programs operate in Pennsylvania," a Xerox spokesman said Wednesday.

Vogler and Parking Authority spokesman Martin O'Rourke said there was no connection between Vogler's employment at Xerox and the awarding of the contract to the company.

The Parking Authority's decision to switch the $5-million-a-year contract to Xerox State & Local Solutions, of Germantown, Md., from American Traffic Solutions, of Tempe, Ariz., has triggered a nasty court fight.

The Parking Authority, the state agency that runs the red-light-camera program, is seeking an injunction to keep ATS from turning off 115 cameras at 25 intersections on Feb. 14, when the current contract expires.

And ATS has officially protested - with the Parking Authority and in court - the awarding of the contract to Xerox, claiming Xerox's bid was flawed.

Vince Fenerty Jr., the executive director of the Parking Authority, said in an affidavit last week that an ATS "representative/lobbyist" had told two Parking Authority board members that ATS would "immediately remove all its cameras" in Philadelphia if the Xerox contract were not rescinded.

The Parking Authority says ATS is bound by its contract to continue to operate and maintain the cameras during a six-month "wind-down" transition period after Feb. 14.

ATS spokesman Charles Territo said ATS had no plans to pull the plug on the red-light cameras.

"If keeping the cameras on and continuing to issue violations as the city's red-light safety-camera vendor is what the city would like us to do, then we would be more than happy to continue," Territo said Wednesday.

"Since the contract was awarded on Dec. 23, PPA has canceled or delayed meetings to discuss the wind-down and has yet to share with us how they would like us to proceed," Territo said.

O'Rourke, the Parking Authority spokesman, said that wasn't true and that the two sides were to meet Thursday morning to discuss the transition.

Xerox was the low bidder in the competition last year for the red-light-camera contract, ultimately negotiating to provide the service for $3,825 per camera per month.

ATS initially bid $4,395 per camera per month, but on Dec. 11 offered a $3,900 proposal.

Under the current contract, ATS is getting $4,445 per camera per month.

Xerox was awarded the contract on Dec. 23, with an effective date of Feb. 14.

Vogler, manager of the red-light enforcement program for the Parking Authority until August 2012, said he advised Xerox "on technical aspects and on state law and the enabling legislation."

"Pennsylvania does things a lot differently than many states, and there are lots of hoops to go through," Vogler said.

He said he was not involved in establishing a bid price.

Vogler, like many at the Parking Authority, is a Republican leader in Democratic-dominated Philadelphia. The authority is a patronage haven for the GOP in Philadelphia. Vogler is the party's leader in Ward 55, in the lower Northeast.

His father, Walter, deputy director of airport operations for the Parking Authority, is the GOP leader of Ward 21, in Roxborough and Manayunk.

Fenerty, the Parking Authority's executive director, is the GOP leader of Wards 18 and 31, in Kensington and Port Richmond.

The Parking Authority has operated the red-light-camera program since its inception in 2005.

In the last seven years, Philadelphia's cameras have caught more than 787,000 drivers running red lights, resulting in $72 million in fines collected.

After payments to the camera vendor and other expenses, the remaining money goes to a fund for highway-safety projects around the state.

ATS, which has operated the cameras since the beginning, was paid $25.5 million from February 2005 through March 2013.

In fiscal 2013, ATS received $5.2 million from the PPA.

ATS contends that Xerox's bid to take over the red-light operation was flawed in several ways, including that Xerox proposes to use radar-based cameras to catch motorists running red lights. ATS said Pennsylvania law permits only the state police to use radar, so Xerox may be in violation of state law.

In January, the Parking Authority denied ATS's protest as "baseless."

ATS asked Commonwealth Court last week to void the Xerox contract, but a judge sent ATS back to the Parking Authority for one more appeal. The Parking Authority has until Friday to rule on that appeal. If it again rejects ATS's protest, ATS said, the firm will return to Commonwealth Court.

Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled on Friday in Common Pleas Court on the Parking Authority's request for an injunction against ATS.

Xerox spokesman Carl Langsenkamp said he could not discuss the company's plans for Philadelphia's red-light cameras because of the contract dispute.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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