Panel considers ticket amnesty

A proposal that would offer amnesty for late penalties on nearly 29,000 past-due parking and traffic camera tickets will be back before the Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday for a vote.

The amnesty program has been proposed to allow drivers to pay the delinquent fines voluntarily before the start of a new collection policy that calls for lawsuits to recover the money.

The council was poised to approve the program last month but delayed a vote over questions about how much of the money recovered through lawsuits would go to the company that oversees the city’s traffic camera enforcement program — Redflex Traffic Systems.

Redflex generally 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 did not plan to share in the legal expenses.

City-Parish Chief Administrative Office Dee Stanley said Thursday the tentative plan is to contract with attorneys on a contingency basis to pursue the fines and then Redflex and Lafayette will split the balance of any recovered money 40/60 after the payment of the contingency fee, which would likely be about a third of what is recovered.

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.

The proposed amnesty program would allow drivers to pay those delinquent fines without late penalties, which could save about 33 percent off the bill.

The amnesty program and new collection strategy come as the Legislature this session is considering a bill that would require a public vote on traffic camera enforcement programs in Lafayette and other areas of the state.

If that bill passes, and if Lafayette residents vote down the traffic camera program, the city would lose more than $1 million a year in fines that now flow mostly to the police department, according to figures from the City-Parish Finance Department.

“At this point, that’s coming right out of the police department’s budget,” Stanley said.