September 27, 2020

SafeSpeed Executive Charged With Bribing Cook County Officials For Red Light Camera Contracts

By Timothy Geigner
In January of this year, we discussed how the Illinois Comptroller had decided to opt out of collecting red light camera fees for motorists ticketed by these automated revenue generators. Susan Mendoza said in a statement that while her office was taking this action due to the feds investigating the contractor for the cameras, a company called SafeSpeed, it was also her position that red light cameras were revenue generators with little efficacy at impacting public safety.

All very true… but about that federal investigation.

Omar Maani, a former co-owner of politically-connected red light camera company SafeSpeed, has been charged with scheming with a former high-ranking Cook County official to bribe the relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee in order to install new red light cameras in the southwest suburb.

Maani is charged with one count of bribery conspiracy in a two-page document known as a “criminal information,” which is typically used in cases [w]here the defendant intends to plead guilty.

If true, such a guilty plea and quick conviction would lay bare the truth that red light cameras for years have been used to bilk money from taxpaying citizens to fill the coffers of both state governments and the contractors those governments work with. In this specific instance, the accusations against Maani suggest fairly brazen behavior. Maani is accused of attempting to pay a close family member of trustee from a Chicago suburb in exchange for installing SafeSpeed cameras in the city. While that is good old fashioned Chicago area politics, it’s also textbook bribery.

And if you might think this was some one-off scheme, it came about in coordination with the chief of staff for Cook County’s Commissioner, Patrick Doherty, among others.

In February, Doherty was indicted on two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to defraud, accused of conspiring with a fellow SafeSpeed sales agent and one of the company’s owners to pay $4,000 in bribes to the relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee, in exchange for influencing that trustee to help approve the installation of additional cameras.

The charges against Doherty came about two weeks after former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking $70,000 in bribes to act as a “protector” for red light camera company SafeSpeed. Sandoval said he agreed to take bribes in exchange for blocking proposed legislation to ban red light cameras.

This again should lay to rest what the purpose of red light cameras is: revenue generation. They aren’t about safety. They aren’t about the law. They aren’t about influencing driving habits. They are about money, full stop.

Which is why they should not exist.