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WUSA9 Probe: Montgomery Co. speedcam loophole | News

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WUSA9 Probe: Montgomery Co. speedcam loophole

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A WUSA9 investigation casts new doubt on Montgomery County's speed camera program, a system that racks up millions in revenue, because there is no evidence some sites were ever published.

Our list of unpublished sites:

Ridge Road, Damascus
8000 Midcounty Highway, Gaithersburg
8100 Midcounty Highway, Gaithersburg
West Old Baltimore Road (eastbound), Boyds
West Old Baltimore Road (westbound), Boyds
18500 block of Barnesville Road in Barnesville

In August, after our investigation began, Montgomery County published all of its speedcam locations, including the ones we identified, both on its website and in a published newspaper public notice.

WUSA9 Investigates is asking why Montgomery County isn't handing out refunds after uncovering evidence that put into question the compliance of at least five cameras prior to that new publication.

Every flash at Montgomery County's 92 speed cameras means a possible $40 fine for drivers. This fiscal year, the county's cameras brought in a record $16.9 million. 

He fought the law

Last July, Damascus resident Paul Layer, an attorney, put the brakes on his ticket on Ridge Road, using the state's own statutes on "unmanned speed monitoring systems," a.k.a. speed cameras. 

Maryland law requires the county to publish locations where speed monitoring systems are in use, "on its website, and in a newspaper of general circulation." 

Layer's camera location was listed in a notice published in a local paper, but the county's attorneys couldn't prove that it was also included on its website at the time Layer got the ticket. When Layer took it to court, the county dropped the citation. 

Not published = not legit 

Two cameras identified in this WUSA9 investigation -- one at 8000 Midcounty Highway, and another at 8100 Midcounty Highway -- were listed online, but couldn't be found in any newspaper printed anywhere. 

Montgomery County's spokeswoman, Lucille Baur, says that the county took a photocopy of an article in the Montgomery County Gazette which the locations of the cameras were meant to be published, but as that photocopy shows, the 8100 and 8000 Midcounty Highway locations are absent from the published list.

Baur maintains that the two missing addresses might have appeared in a different version of that newspaper, but she can't find it, and no one in the Traffic Enforcement Division of the police department recalls seeing it. 

"Grandfathered" cameras

Questions abound regarding cameras at three more locations: two on West Old Baltimore Road in Boyds, and one on the 18500 block of Barnesville Road in Barnesville, that never showed up in a printed newspaper.  

Montgomery County's spokeswoman, Lucille Baur, believes the three cameras are "grandfathered in," and exempt from the law.

She says that those cameras on West Old Baltimore never needed to be published in a newspaper because the locations were "authorized" to function as mobile camera sites prior to the October 1, 2009 date. 

Cameras activated after that date have to adhere to the dual-publishing law in the statute. 

WUSA9 has verified that all five questionable camera locations were activated after October 1, 2009. 

Still, the county spokeswoman maintains that the speed camera program follows the intent of the law, and no effort was made to conceal their locations. 

The county also points to news releases, speed camera signs, and other attention they've drawn to cameras to prompt motorists to comply before they're issued tickets.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars 

The five speed camera locations in this report add up to a total of $376,680 in fines, but although the county admits they've made mistakes with regard to the Midcounty Highway locations, they do not plan on giving refunds at this time.

In the opinion of county attorneys, Baur says, no refunds need be issued because drivers admit guilt when they mail in their signed tickets and pay the fines. But if drivers think they were ticketed unfairly after learning of this investigation, Baur says, "We're willing to take a look at it." 

Got a ticket?

We're willing to take a look at it, too. If you got a ticket prior to August 14, 2013, at any of these five locations, let us know. Email rptacek@wusa9.com or find him on Facebook or Twitter