BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB)– Buffalo City Traffic Court is being investigated by lawmakers, which could lead to hundreds of violations being dismissed. The focus is on allegations of a hearing officer acting as prosecutor, judge, and jury.
This is the latest controversy stemming from Buffalo’s school zone cameras. Late last year, city officials conceded many of the school zone violations were not getting processed on time, so they dismissed thousands of those citations.
When a speed camera catches a car exceeding the 15 miles-an-hour speed limit in a school zone, the violation notice has to be mailed to the car owner within 14 days. That’s the law.
Some owners have been challenging their violations in court and claim the hearing officer is also acting as the prosecutor.
“It is very clear that the hearing officers in the Traffic Bureau are also acting as prosecutors. This totally unacceptable, it is unethical,” said Buffalo attorney Peter Reese.
Reese told the Council’s Legislation Committee’s Zoom meeting that he has gotten a number of tickets dismissed but city officials point out, the camera citations are not the same as moving violations which have to follow a different procedure.
When Buffalo schools resume classes on February 1, some members of the Council believe the cameras should be put on pause.
” I would hope that the Administration and the Council can get together to discuss how we can hold off on anything taking place where people would be issued tickets until everything is cleared up,” said South District Councilman Chris Scanlon.
University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt was upset about what he was hearing.
“This thing is a total mess, and for someone to sit and think this is okay to continue this way, for whatever reason, is just, I don’t even know what to call it, I guess I would call it stupidity.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said there seems to be some misunderstanding about how the camera violations work versus moving violations which are more serious and enforced by police. Helfer says, to straighten it out, all the Council has to do is ask.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.