Lawsuit says Tinley Park unevenly enforces red light camera tickets, lets those connected to village hall off hook

By Jonathan Bilyk | Nov 6, 2015

Two Tinley Park residents have hit the village of Tinley Park with a class action lawsuit over its red light traffic camera program, claiming Tinley police have abused their discretion in letting fellow government workers and those connected to Tinley’s mayor get away with running red lights, while not giving similar deference to those on the outside.

On Nov. 3, plaintiffs Norman Elftmann III and Jennifer Musser filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the village, asking a judge to allow them to proceed with the suit on their behalf and on behalf of potentially tens of thousands of others who since 2009 have paid potentially more than $2 million in fines to the village after receiving tickets through the red light camera program.

They are being represented in the action by attorney Stephen E. Eberhardt, of Tinley Park. Eberhardt had run unsuccessfully for mayor of Tinley Park in 2012.

According to the complaint, Elftmann had received a ticket after his vehicle was photographed by a red light camera in the intersection of 159th and Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park on Nov. 2, 2014. He paid the $100 fine without challenging the ticket.

Musser received a ticket after her vehicle was photographed in the intersection of 183rd and Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park on Jan. 14, 2015. According to the complaint, Musser attempted to challenge the ticket at a hearing in March, but was still “found guilty of the alleged violation.” She then attempted to arrange a new hearing after hiring Eberhardt to represent her, but her request was denied, the complaint stated.

By contrast, the complaint alleged those connected to village hall, and particularly those connected to Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki, have been allowed to escape paying the fines for red light camera because of a provision in the red light camera ordinance allowing “police discretion” in reviewing the tickets.

The complaint cited an email, dated Oct. 5, 2012, revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request made by the plaintiffs, in which it is alleged the village “makes clear that village employees had some type of procedure to notify ticket reviewers and some expectation that their red light incidents would be rejected.”

“No one advised plaintiffs, though, that if they have the officer who reviewed the violations a ‘heads-up’ they could potentially avoid the $100 ticket,” the complaint stated.

The plaintiffs alleged the uneven enforcement of the red light camera ordinance and the associated fines, as well as a purported failure on the part of the village to give those receiving tickets a reasonable opportunity to challenge the tickets in court or qualify for a “traffic safety program,” rather than simply be fined, violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection, as well as state laws.

The plaintiffs believe a potential class could number more than 24,000 people, who the plaintiffs estimated have contributed more than $2 million in revenue to the village since the cameras were installed in 2009.

The complaint asks the court to order the village to refund all fines paid through the red light camera program and award plaintiffs unspecified damages, costs and fees.

They have requested a jury trial.

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