Traffic camera commission never meets, fails to report findings

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comNovember 1, 2011 

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A 13-member commission created in June to examine any future use of traffic cameras in South Carolina missed its Nov. 1 deadline to report findings to state lawmakers.

In fact, the S.C. Traffic Enforcement Commission never met, according to several state officials.

The panel was created as part of a state law that banned the use of cameras to enforce speeding laws and tickets based upon photographic evidence.

The law required the commission to examine the ethical, legal and policy issues posed by traffic cameras. It was to include representatives from state government, the S.C. Sheriff's Association and other law enforcement groups, as well as the S.C. Bar and Criminal Defense Lawyers associations.

The group was instructed to begin meeting "as soon as practically possible" with Gov. Nikki Haley or her designee serving as the group's chairman, and report back to the General Assembly by Nov. 1.

A spokeswoman for the S.C. Bar Association and Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner, former president of the Sheriff's Association, said that never happened.

"We had decided that our executive director, Jeff Moore, was going to represent us on the committee," Tanner said. "No meeting was ever called. We were told that no one was given the task of calling a meeting."

A Haley spokesman blamed language in the new law for the oversight but provided a letter showing Haley did not appoint a chairman until Friday.

"These advisory committee bills typically specify who is staffing the commission," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said. "This bill left that detail out. Gov. Haley has appointed Glenn McCall to this legislatively constituted commission. Mr. McCall is ready to meet when the entity that is staffing this commission has been determined."

McCall is chairman of the York County Republican Party.

The study group was created by an amendment introduced by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, to a bill sponsored by Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, to outlaw the technology, which was pioneered in the state by the town of Ridgeland and its contractor, iTraffic.

Ridgeland became the first municipality in South Carolina to use traffic cameras when it deployed the technology in August 2010 to catch and ticket speeders on Interstate 95. The town pulled the plug on the controversial cameras following the bill's passage this summer.

As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Grooms also was expected to serve on the study group and said it was the responsibility of Haley or her appointee to ensure the committee met on time.

"When these study groups are created, it is the responsibility of the chairman to call the first meeting," Grooms said. "It was the governor's responsibility to appoint someone to serve as chairman, but a chairman was never appointed, so we never met. I intend to serve on the committee whenever it meets."

Some state lawmakers who voted for Grooms' bill earlier this year voiced their disappointment Tuesday that the panel failed to meet.

"It's kind of disappointing," said Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton. "I probably still would have voted for the bill if that amendment hadn't been attached, but (the amendment) was an important part of it. We need to know the whole story, especially when it comes to something this controversial and something this important."

Davis urged the group to begin meeting as soon as possible.

"Having once been a governor's chief of staff, I know how hectic things can get and how deadlines can be missed," Davis said. "The important thing now is for the commission to be constituted quickly and for it to begin making the inquiries required by the law."

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

Related content

  1. New state commission to begin studying speed-camera use, July 4, 2011
  2. Haley signs speed camera ban into law, June 17, 2011
  3. Sen. Davis pushes for traffic-camera study during hiatus, Feb. 15, 2011

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