In a decision that could have an impact in Mowrystown, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with cities again in their dispute with the state over traffic cameras, ruling Wednesday that an earlier decision upholding use of the cameras applies to two more cities.
It’s the fourth time the state’s highest court has come down in favor of cities that use the cameras to issue tickets for speeding and red-light violations.
Mowrystown has been using a speed camera referred to as “lidar” since late August and numerous area residents have spoke out against it.
At a September Village Council meeting, Mowrystown Mayor Frank Terwilliger said the camera is being used to pay for officers to help combat drug issues in the village. Officials at the meeting said that 60 percent of the funds produced by tickets as a result of the camera go to the village, while 40 percent of the funds go to Blue Line Solutions, the company that provides the camera.
A Mowrystown Police Department spokesperson said Wednesday that the village is still using the camera.
The Ohio Supreme, in a 4-3 decision, said its ruling in July that upheld Dayton’s use of the traffic cameras should be applied to cases involving cameras in Toledo and Springfield.
That means those cases will go back to county courts.
Dayton, Toledo and Springfield have been challenging a 2015 state law that put restrictions on using the cameras, including requiring that an officer be present when cameras are being used.
The cities argued the rules undercut camera enforcement and made it too costly for cities to operate. Several cities stopped using their fixed traffic cameras after lawmakers changed the rules.
The state, though, maintained it had the authority to regulate traffic enforcement across the state and argued the law was a good compromise on the traffic cameras.
Justice Pat DeWine was one of three justices opposing the court’s decision issued Wednesday. He said the ruling in July was fractured and lacked a majority view to apply to the other two cities.
“The decision adds nothing but more confusion,” he wrote.
Critics say the cameras are only boosting revenues for cities while violating motorists’ rights. But the cities say they increase safety on the roads and allow police to focus on other crimes.
Still to be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court is whether the state can withhold discretionary funds from cities that use traffic cameras.
Also pending is a legislative proposal that would offset revenue cities earn from cameras by reducing the same amount from its state funding.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press released a story saying Ohio’s auditor has faulted a small village and its police chief for failing to keep proper records of camera-enforced traffic fines that produce much of the village’s revenue.
An audit of Brice released last week says auditors couldn’t find sufficient documentation for the tickets. The village roughly 12 miles east of Columbus reported the fines brought in more than $170,000 in 2016, accounting for nearly 75 percent of Brice’s general fund total.
The Columbus Dispatch reports Brice faces a class-action lawsuit over fines collected from 2013 to 2015.
State Auditor Dave Yost says Brice Police Chief Bud Bauchmoyer should have kept a complete record of every citation given the scrutiny of the village’s ticketing practices.