Gosh, who could've guessed this red-light camera stuff would result in a full-blown corruption investigation – now, with a guilty plea and surely more charges to come.
It's now the second instance in which a red-light camera company has been implicated in a bribery scheme: Remember Redflex, which made tens of millions of dollars operating Chicago's red-light camera system? It all came apart when it was revealed Redflex officials had paid bribes to the person who oversaw the contract with the city.
He went to prison, as did the Redflex CEO and a consultant.
Now Martin Sandoval, the once-powerful chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee, finds himself disgraced – pleading guilty Tuesday morning to accepting bribes in exchange for supporting the red-light camera industry and opposing legislation adverse to them. Oh, and lying on an income tax return to conceal that income.
You remember Sandoval, right? He was one of the guys who showed up, righteously indignant at the performance of local school officials in Lyons, and demanding their resignations in the run up to an election that returned his political allies to control of the school board.
Gives you a warm feeling, Sandoval being so concerned about proper conduct, doesn't it?
Three years ago, the Landmark did a deep dive on red-light cameras and the company, SafeSpeed LLC, whose cameras monitor intersections in more than two dozen towns in northern Illinois.
We showed how the claims that the cameras were there to address safety issues weren't credible and that that main reason they existed was to bring in revenue. We demonstrated SafeSpeed's and associated entities' generosity to local politicians, including Sandoval, whose campaign committee raked in $30,000 from people and firms associated with the red-light camera company.
We reported that Sandoval had personally intervened on SafeSpeed's behalf to urge Illinois Department of Transportation officials to approve red-light cameras at the intersection of 22nd Street and Route 83 in Oakbrook Terrace – a location that IDOT had previously said didn't meet benchmarks for the devices.
The red-light camera industry was so desperately concerned with safety that Sandoval allegedly accepted bribes from them to make Illinois roads safer. The millions in revenue that the cameras produce was secondary. We're supposed to believe that, right?
The heat is rightly on the whole red-light camera scheme. The Illinois Comptroller recently announced she'll no longer dock Illinois residents' income tax returns to help municipalities recoup unpaid red-light violation ticket fines.
New applications for red-light cameras reportedly are being stonewalled by the new state administration, and Riverside recently decided to deep-six its contract with SafeSpeed.
There's also legislation pending in the Illinois General Assembly to outlaw the cameras in Illinois. That kind of legislation has surfaced before, passed by either the House or Senate only to get suffocated by the other legislative body in committee. It was kind of a fun game.
Without Sandoval as a paid industry patron, perhaps things will be different this time around.
In fact, we're sure about it.