||September 13th, 2007|
If we were to interfere with a police officer in the conduct of his duties we could, and should, be arrested for obstruction of justice. Yet one police officer last week took it upon himself to interfere with the investigation by The Paper of a major news story facing North San Diego County. How? By giving incorrect and what ultimately amounted to deceptive information. Perhaps not intentional, but deceptive nonetheless.
Last week’s cover story “Gotcha!” dealt with the RedFlex Traffic Camera system that is being used throughout North County. For the most part, we received the information we asked for from the police departments of Oceanside and Vista. And then came Escondido.
While interviewing an Escondido police Sergeant, we asked a simple question. What is the amount of revenue the city of Escondido has derived from RedFlex and what amount of money has the city paid to Redflex?
“You’re not going to like what you hear, Lyle,” the Sergeant said. And he was correct. I didn’t. And I don’t.
“We have no way of tracking that information. Red light revenue is all lumped together. We don’t know what is RedFlex revenue and what is regular red light traffic revenue. The courts process the citations and send us all the information and it is not broken out that way.”
We pointed out to the Sergeant that it made no sense from an accounting standpoint to not be able to track the income and expenses of such a project Given a chance to clarify or to revise his remarks, the Sergeant maintained his position.
We were on deadline and had made that fact known to the Sergeant. We had waited three hours for his return call. Finally, we called him and was given the above information. We had to go to press without the information we needed to complete the story.
The next day, in about five minutes, I secured the information we had asked for from Gil Rojas, the Finance Director for the city of Escondido.
RedFlex, since it’s inception in 2004, has taken in $1,055,214 as of 6/30/2007. It has spent $1,048,056 for a net revenue of $7,158. Basically, it’s about at a break even point.
A newspaper represents the eyes and ears of the public. We are the conduit through which information flows to keep you abreast of what is happening locally . . . in your community. We are often a bit of a watchdog and we raise hell when we see something is wrong.
Something is wrong.
We have always had an excellent working relationship with the Escondido Police Department. The sergeant in question has been a friend for years. Yet our job is to prepare a news story to present to you, the public. We need factual information in a timely manner, regardless of the source, regardless of friendships. Given the large number of vehicles nailed by RedFlex, one has to wonder if there is a potential for financial abuse by either RedFlex or the Escondido Police Department. We’ve felt all along that RedFlex has some merit . . . but the potential for abuse is there. Big Brother is here. And Big Brother, this time at least, did not tell us the truth. We are very disappointed.