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Ohio Supreme Court ruling prompts Newburgh Heights to pause traffic camera enforcement

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Posted at 3:59 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 15:59:22-04

NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the General Assembly can reduce a municipality’s state funding by the amount of income generated by its traffic camera program.

The ruling comes after the village of Newburgh Heights and the city of East Cleveland sued the state of Ohio, calling the laws unconstitutional.

“This is a systemic, indirect attempt by the legislature to dictate the minutia and make it economically unviable or impossible or imprudent to run any traffic camera program,” Michael Cicero, counsel for the village of Newburgh Heights, said during oral arguments for this case on February 9.

Following the ruling, the mayor of Newburgh Heights released a statement, saying “We are aware of the court’s decision and we will comply with the ruling.”

Additionally, the village turned off its traffic enforcement cameras shortly thereafter. It’s not clear at this point if or when they would be used again.

“The state constitution gives the legislature, not the cities, the power to decide when and how to spend state money,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “The Supreme Court today affirmed that simple, black-letter rule of law.”

In court filings, Newburgh Heights, a village with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, disclosed it collected more than $2.4 million in traffic camera revenue in 2018, with tickets being issued to vehicles traveling at least 12 miles an hour over the speed limit on city streets.

“Because of this program that we put in, we now have more officers, more firefighters and can better serve our residents whose resources are taken away by commuters commuting back and forth to Cleveland,” Cicero added in February.

News 5 has reported extensively on communities and their controversial use of traffic cameras.

RELATED: In Depth: Speed cameras raising concerns over due process and public safety revenue

Joshua Engel serves as a civil rights attorney who’s dealt with cases over Ohio’s speed cameras. Engel told News 5 this ruling changes the landscape for traffic cameras in Ohio going forward.

“It’s a net zero effect for them financially,” he explained. “If you believe these traffic cameras are intended to promote public safety, reduce speeding, reduce accidents on the road, then that's a great incentive for municipalities to operate these cameras. If you believe municipalities were intending to use these cameras to raise revenue, then there’s not much incentive to operate them.”

News 5 also reached out several times to the city of East Cleveland about their traffic cameras and we are still waiting for a response or comment on this ruling.

The village of Newburgh Heights launched its camera program in 2014, and East Cleveland began using them in 2006, according to court filings.

House Bill 62 implemented laws governing traffic cameras, dictating that municipalities using traffic cameras must file a report with the state commissioner disclosing revenue, which would then trigger the state to reduce the amount that municipality received from the state’s local government fund.

While the ruling impacts revenue generated from standalone, stationary traffic cameras, it has no impact on revenue generated from police officers monitoring speed.

To view the Ohio Supreme Court decision,click here.