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Vendor Says City Bound By Contract

Houston Mayor Annise Parker is defending her decision to ask City Council to decide whether to turn the city's red light cameras off for good. But the camera vendor says Houston must abide by the contract it signed a few years ago, or pay up. A resolution could come after the parties meet over the weekend for mediation.


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Mayor Annise Parker was criticized for changing her mind about keeping the cameras on.

Voters rejected the cameras last  November, but a federal judge declared the results invalid. 

Mayor Parker then had the cameras turned back on, saying the city would be liable for breaking its contract with the cameras’ manufacturer, American Traffic Solutions.

Andy Taylor is lead counsel for ATS.

“We have an agreement with the City of Houston until May of 2014. If they decide to breach that agreement, it’s going to have a 25-million dollar consequence for the taxpayers of Houston.”

PH: “This was stipulated in the contract?”

Taylor: “That’s right, we’re not making this up. You just read the document and it tells you what the damages are. So the mayor knows, that in her effort to try to get some political gain here that she’s opening up her checkbook, and it belongs to the city and the taxpayers, giving us 25 million dollars in potential damages.”

Simply put, if the city wants to buy out of the contract, it will come at a cost of 25-million dollars.

“ATS has a lot of legal options. Our case is very, very strong. We’ve won every round in court so far. We’ve told the mayor, she doesn’t have the right to breach the agreement.”

Taylor says Mayor Parker has flip-flopped on the issue, after she convinced ATS that the red light cameras kept the public safe by reducing accidents.

“She signed the actual contract with the vendor, not once but twice, and then a third time. And so, she knows that she’s breaching her word. And you know, Houston enjoys a really good business reputation. But under this mayor’s leadership, Houston’s business reputation has been flushed down the toilet.”

The red light camera program was initiated when Bill White was mayor and Parker was controller. Earlier this week, Mayor Parker said she’s hopeful an agreement can be ironed out over the weekend during mediation with ATS.

“I’m very clear, the cameras are gonna go off. I’m also very clear, I believe in red light cameras. I think the vote was a mistake. But I am doing the will of the voters, but the will of the voters doesn’t negate the fact that I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Houston. And it’s time for council members to get on board.”

Council discusses whether to turn the cameras off at a rare special meeting tomorrow. All parties will then gather for mediation on Saturday, and a final vote from council should come next Wednesday.       

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