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DOUBLE STANDARD: Many Citations Never Issued

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DES MOINES – A spokesperson for the Des Moines Police Department confirmed that more than 75 automated speed and red light camera citations were never issued to various government entities.  They include cities, The State of Iowa, local school districts, and The Federal Government.  At $65, each, the fines would have totaled more than $4,800.

The unfair practice was uncovered by an open records request made by Channel 13 News.  The request covered citations given to vehicles registered to the City of Des Moines.  It was revealed that such citations do not exist.  Instead, the city has been issuing letters to the heads of city departments when it is determined the law was broken by a person driving one of the department’s vehicles.  The revelation prompted another request by Channel 13 which found dozens of violations by drivers of vehicles registered to other government entities.

Des Moines City Council Member Christine Hensley said that she was surprised to learn of the city’s policy, with which she strongly disagrees.  Hensley said that she ordered City Manager Rick Clark to draft a new policy that requires citations to be issued and fines collected from other governments, even The City of Des Moines.  Hensley said, “I don’t believe anybody should be exempted.  We’re all accountable and should be held accountable.”

Hensley’s constituents have shared their concerns with her after last week’s initial Channel 13 reports exposed the little known city policy.  “(The people I’ve heard from) were all quite mad and surprised,” said Hensley.  She and Clark are of the opinion that The City should retroactively issue citations to the entities that received letters.  Clark said, “These things can be handled administratively.  So, that’s my intention to do the right thing.”

Des Moines police are working on complying with the latest open records request made by Channel 13 News.  Once processed, it should reveal all of the government entities that were never formally cited.  It should also reveal which government leaders, like Clive City Manager Dennis Henderson, demanded citations and forced their personnel to pay the fine.

Henderson said that he received a letter from the Des Moines Police Department last spring.  He said that he did demand and receive a citation, then found the employee who broke the law in a Clive Public Works vehicle and forced that person to pay the proper fine.  Henderson said that he disagrees with Des Moines’ way of administering the program.  He said that if Clive were to administer its own red light camera program like Des Moines, “It would lead to issue after issue if we were treating one classification differently than another."