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Chicago could shell out over $38 million for red-light camera program settlement

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The city of Chicago could pay out more than $38 million over its handling of a red-light program. The multimillion-dollar settlement would affect drivers who received tickets from 2010 to 2015. (Paul EllisS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chicago City Council is set to review a $38.75 million proposal to settle a class-action lawsuit against the city for its handling of the local red-light camera program.

The lawsuit alleged that the city did not give adequate notice to violators and charged improper late fees, according to WLS-TV. If agreed to, the settlement would allow around 1.2 million Chicago, Illinois, motorists to collect up to 50 percent refunds.

The multimillion-dollar settlement would affect drivers who received tickets from 2010 to 2015, and includes $28.75 million in cash refunds to motorists who paid fines and $12 million in debt forgiveness for those who never paid tickets.

Jacie Zolna, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the city shortened the deadlines for fine payment and gave no notice before considering someone delinquent and charging them even more in late fees.

"The law allows them 21 days from when they get that ticket to contest it, or do something with it. On the 14th day, the city was finding people liable. And you could no longer contest the ticket," she told WLS-TV.

The agreement will have to be approved by the city council, and could be reviewed as early as Monday by the council's finance committee.

The city of Chicago's corporate counsel, Ed Siskel, said in a statement that he believes the city should approve the proposed settlement.

"[W]e believe this resolution is in the best interests of the taxpayers. While the City continues to believe it has strong legal defenses to these claims, we are recommending the City Council approve the proposed settlement to protect taxpayers from significant financial exposure," Siskel said.

Red-light camera programs have long been plagued by controversy, hailed by supporters as a measure to keep streets safer. Opponents argue the local programs are unconstitutional, and only serve as a backdoor source of city revenue.

Ten states currently have laws in place banning localities from using red-light cameras, speed cameras, or both.

 

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