Lafayette council delays traffic amnesty program

A proposal to offer amnesty on late penalties for nearly 29,000 delinquent parking tickets and traffic camera fines has been delayed.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday voted 6-3 to defer a vote on the program until next month.

The proposed plan is to offer the amnesty for a limited time before city-parish government launches a stricter collection program that calls for lawsuits against drivers with delinquent fines totaling $125 or more.

The council put off the amnesty vote pending a move to have the legal costs for collections shared by the private company that oversees the city’s traffic camera enforcement program, Redflex Traffic Systems.

Redflex receives 40 percent of the fine for any traffic camera tickets and city-parish government receives 60 percent, but some council members said Redflex should not get any of the fines recovered through lawsuits if the company does not share in the legal expenses.

City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert said Redflex has agreed to share in legal expenses related to collection by the same 40-60 split as the revenue.

Councilmen William Theriot, Kenneth Boudreaux and Jared Bellard also said they wanted assurances before voting that the new collection strategy will actually bring in revenue after the legal expenses are paid.

The contract amendment and the amnesty program are scheduled to come back before the council May 21.

The number of unpaid parking tickets and traffic camera violations in Lafayette totals 28,769 for the past three years — 11,843 parking tickets and 16,926 red light and speeding violations under the city’s automated traffic camera enforcement program, according to figures from city-parish government.

That’s about $2 million in fines that has gone uncollected, plus another $1 million in penalties for late payment, according to the figures.

The collection effort could involve literally thousands of lawsuits, and Hebert said the plan is to farm the cases out in large batches to attorneys who work on contingency for a share of the recovered fines.

Hebert said most of the lawsuits would likely involve people owing in the range of $125 to $400, but he said at least one case could involve more than $30,000.

Voting to delay a vote on the amnesty program were Boudreaux, Bellard, Theriot, Kevin Naquin, Jay Castille and Andy Naquin.

Councilmen Brandon Shelvin, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin voted against the delay.

Bertrand argued that city-parish government could start the amnesty program while working on the details of the new collection initiative.

“We can go ahead and start the amnesty clock,” he said. “We’re kicking the can down the road. Let’s take care of this.”