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'Bait, Switch' By City Alleged

By Sean Olson
Copyright 2008 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Four Albuquerque councilors are accusing the city administration of a "bait and switch" in the contract it negotiated with Redflex Inc., which runs the red light camera program.
    Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, Michael Cadigan and Debbie O'Malley sent a letter to Mayor Martin Chávez on Wednesday complaining that the contract— negotiated more than two years ago— lacks major provisions that were part of a draft councilors had approved beforehand.
    Cadigan on Wednesday said the council probably should have looked at the final contract earlier.
    The letter comes just days after a city task force recommended keeping the red light program through 2009.
    "This was not a case of the Administration working out final details of a contract after Council approval; this appears to be a case of bait and switch," the letter states.
    Bruce Perlman, the top executive under Chávez, said contracts like the one with Redflex are changed due to negotiations all the time.
    "The only reason this one is being singled out is because some councilors have an ax to grind," he said.
    Councilors approve a draft based on contractor bids and a "sample" contract, City Attorney Bob White said. The contract is then negotiated with the bidder, and council approval is not needed for the final document, he said.
    The councilors' letter lists three provisions missing from the contract:
   
  • A termination clause that would have allowed the city to cancel the Redflex contract with 15 days' notice. Under the final document, the city faces penalties if it terminates the contract before it ends in 2009, the letter said.
       
  • A requirement that Redflex provide "such statements, records, reports, data and information, as the city may request."
       
  • A clause requiring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
        The councilors' letter criticizes Chávez for appearing to state in a 2005 memo that Redflex would be paid a fixed amount for each red light camera intersection and would tap collected fines only to cover costs of running the program.
        That is the arrangement recommended in the task force report, the councilors pointed out.
        The contract, however, gives Redflex a percentage of fines each month, the letter state.
        Cadigan said Wednesday the council expects minor changes to contracts during negotiations, but not significant ones.
        "These are changes that go to the heart of the contract," he said.
        The councilors' letter states that some of the task force recommendations were influenced by the contract. For example, the recommendation to support the red light program until 2009 coincides with the length of the contract with Redflex, it states.
        Mayoral spokeswoman Deborah James said the council had staff who participated in the task force, while no one from the administration was a part of the process.
        "The administration is flabbergasted by this (letter)," she said.
        The letter asks Chávez to respond to the allegations and provide more information about the contract negotiations with Redflex before the council takes any action on task force recommendations.