Nathan Stubbs

Redflex challenges private investigators ruling

by Nathan Stubbs

Attorneys for Redflex Traffic Systems, the vendor for camera traffic enforcement programs in Lafayette and Baker, have filed a slew of legal challenges to a ruling last week from the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners. At a May 13th hearing, the LSBPIE ruled that Redflex’s SafeSpeed program van operators are acting as private investigators and therefore must be licensed under state regulations. On Friday afternoon, Redflex filed a motion for judicial review asking the 19th District court to rescind the ruling. “We’re not doing P.I. work,” says Redflex attorney Max Kees. “And we’re not holding ourselves out to offer our services to the public. We offer services only to governmental bodies.” Kees says the LSBPIE took the position that by contracting with representative governments, Redflex was thereby offering services to the public. “Well, I respectfully disagree with that position,” Kees says. This morning, a 19th Judicial District Judge ordered that the LSBPIE's ruling be stayed, pending court review. Redflex is continuing to operate its SafeSpeed vans.

In addition, Redflex has also filed a lawsuit against the LSBPIE alleging that its ruling was made in a closed executive session, in violation of the state’s open meetings law. The suit alleges three violations of the sunshine law, stating that the board never held a public vote, went into executive session for the purpose of deliberations, and conducted a secret ballot. Redflex attorney Charles Patin says that when he inquired as to the purpose of the executive session at the meeting, board member and hearing officer Paula Clayton, an attorney, stated that it was for deliberations. Patin also says he has an unofficial transcript from the meeting’s court reporter confirming this. Reached this morning, the board’s executive director Pat Englade says that no official transcripts or minutes are available yet from the meeting. “The board went into executive session toward the end of the hearing to discuss some legal issues,” he says. “But the meeting was all held as a public hearing.” Englade qualified his answer by noting he is not a board member and was not present throughout the entire meeting. He could not recall whether the board held a public vote. In its suit, Redflex is seeking the max $100 penalty for each of the three alleged open meetings violations – a $300 fine for each the five board members present at the meeting.

The P.I. board first took up the Redflex issue last year, after a complaint from Lafayette resident Denise Skinner. Redflex then obtained a Temporary Restraining Order from the 19th District Court that prevented the P.I. board from holding a hearing over whether it could issue a Cease and Desist order to Redflex. That restraining order was then modified to allow the P.I. board to hold a hearing solely on whether it had jurisdiction over Redflex. Attorney Kees says the board went beyond that legal authority at its recent hearing. “The temporary restraining order allowed them to have a meeting for one purpose only,” he says, “to determine jurisdiction. They went beyond that one purpose. They said, 'yes we have jurisdiction and so therefore you have to be licensed as a P.I.'”