By Mark P. Couch
The Denver Post
Denver's photo-radar program is so poorly managed that city
officials do not know how much it costs to run the program,
according to an audit released Tuesday.
Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher also found that an unknown
number of drivers have been overcharged fines as a result
of the mismanaged program.
"They simply don't know how many people have overpaid,"
said Gallagher's spokesman, Denis Berckefeldt.
The Denver Police Department and ACS State and Local Solutions,
the company hired to run the photo-radar program, are still
sorting out how many people have paid too much and deserve
The audit doesn't say how much the program has collected
in fines, either.
The audit found that the most common billing problem was
related to speeders who paid their fine twice.
"In that circumstance, the city should not, in good
faith, retain funds it knows were paid in error or by mistake,"
the audit states.
Denver's photo-radar program, which uses cameras to nab speeding
drivers, has been hotly contested. It was the source of a
dismissed class-action lawsuit in 2002 and was briefly suspended
that year by a different court ruling.
The primary management problem discovered by the audit, which
covered the period between January 2002 and March 2003, is
that no city official can explain how much it costs.
"We were told by the budget and management office that
it was supposed to be a self-sustaining program, but nobody
can tell you how much it costs to run it," Berckefeldt
The costs are supposed to be covered by the ticket charges.
But Gallagher found that many costs of the program were not
assigned to it. For example, the cost of fuel and maintenance
for some city vehicles was not assigned to the program. In
another case, the program was charged payroll costs for more
Denver County Court workers than had been assigned to it.
To figure out the costs, Gallagher recommended the creation
of a special fund that separates the program from the city's
general fund. That would make it easier to calculate the costs
and revenues of the program.
The audit also found operational problems.
"There is not a system in place to document any problems
with the cameras and vans," the report said. Another
problem is that ACS, a Dallas-based company, failed to follow
the city's rules for setting up the vans that snap speeders'
The auditor's office found "insufficient supervision
of van drivers." City rules restrict photo radar to neighborhood
areas or school zones, but ACS' van drivers were selecting
A company spokesman said the company would work with the
city to fix any problems.
"ACS will work with the client," spokesman Joe
Barrett said. "We're very proud of the program and the
successes we've had. Anything that needs to be improved, ACS
will work to the city to help them improve."
From the city side, the primary reason for the problems is
that the Police Department does not have a full-time employee
assigned to manage the program, the auditor said.
In the audit report, the Police Department said it agrees
that a sergeant should be assigned to monitor the program,
but that its requests for funding for the extra position have
Detective Teresa Garcia said Tuesday that Police Chief Gerry
Whitman has not yet reviewed the audit.
"It is certainly going to put a strain on us,"
Garcia said of assigning a full-time position to the program.
"We will review all available options."