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Bless the heart of the county commissioners, I think we all will come knocking on your doors when we receive our new...

Red light camera suit goes to court

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A red light camera is at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and South Memorial Drive on April 27, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Monday, May 20, 2019

The fate of Greenville’s red-light camera program and the income it has generated for Pitt County Schools now rests with three judges.

Attorneys representing the city, Pitt County Schools and Mary Sue Vaitovis presented their arguments for summary judgment in the case of Vaitovis v. City and Pitt County Board of Education on Friday at Campbell Law School, Boyce Courtroom in Raleigh.

The three-judge panel is hearing the case because of legislation that requires such panels when acts of the General Assembly are challenged in court. The panel is comprised of three superior court judges who are picked from across the state, said Emma Hudson, Pitt County Schools’ general counsel.

Attorneys for plaintiff, Mary Sue Vaitovis, who received a traffic citation after a camera captured her vehicle running a red light at the intersection of Fire Tower Road and Arlington Boulevard on March 10, 2018, argue that the program is unconstitutional because state law prohibits local acts regulating health, and the legislation that authorized a cost sharing agreement between the City of Greenville and Pitt County Board of Education was a local act.

The attorney for the city and school board argues “health,” as defined by the state and state courts, means medical procedures and disease prevention and was never meant to include traffic safety. The city and school system attorney argued if traffic is included in the definition, then the definition could be further expanded and invalidate local acts covering the sale of alcoholic beverages, fire safety and firearms, which would be disruptive.

The city and Board of Education both were represented by Robert King and Elizabeth Troutman of the Brooks Pierce law firm. Vaitovis was represented by Paul Stam and R. Daniel Gibson of the Stam law firm.

The city installed cameras at five intersections in the fall of 2017 to deter motorists from running red lights. The city wanted to use revenues generated from the tickets to pay for the camera program but state law requires all proceeds from tickets be paid to the county school system.

The city and school system secured legislation that allowed the Pitt County Board of Education to return some of the city to pay for the program.

Pitt County Schools received $596,940 from the red light camera program between December 2017 and June 2018 and $663,445 between July and March, according to data Superintendent Ethan Lenker presented to the Pitt County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 10.

Lenker said revenue from fiscal year 2017-18 funded the purchase of security cameras, teacher and student devices and the Impact Venues Program.

Lenker said the school system will not spend the current fiscal year’s red light camera revenue until the lawsuit is finalized.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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