Valley communities reviewing use of speed cams in wake of state order


Several Mahoning Valley communities are consulting their law directors after the Ohio Department of Transportation ordered them to remove speed-camera signs and equipment from state highways by Aug. 3.

Those communities – Youngstown, Girard and the townships of Hubbard, Weathersfield, Liberty and Howland – use speed-camera programs on state Routes 11, 82, 304, Interstate 80 and 76.

The letter cited state law, which says signage or objects can’t be placed or maintained on highways without a permit issued by the ODOT director.

It also states the ODOT director will order removal of property that obstructs a highway or interferes with construction.

Girard, Youngstown, Liberty and Weathersfield did not have permits for their speed cameras and signage, according to the ODOT letters.

Hubbard and Howland did, but their sign permits for Route 82 and Route 304 were canceled.

“The director has decided to exercise the discretion to not permit placement of speed enforcement cameras or related signage in ODOT right of way or on ODOT owned structure,” the letter explained.

The director’s orders don't address handheld cameras on highways. Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary, said the ODOT orders only affect cameras mounted on the highway.

That leaves the question of hand-held cameras – and the surrounding controversy – unanswered.

Atty. Marc Dann filed a class-action lawsuit against Girard on behalf of citizens he argued were wrongfully ticketed from the cameras after the speed limit was changed, but ODOT didn’t change the signs.

Liberty has been one of the epicenters on handheld cameras. Liberty’s former legal counsel, Mark Finamore, advised against their use. Cherry Poteet, Liberty township’s current legal counsel, reversed that decision and said the township could use cameras on the highways.

Finamore, who still serves as Hubbard Township’s legal counsel, said it was his original legal opinion that state law prohibits townships with a population under 50,000 to use speed cameras on highways, so he advised Liberty trustees last year not to do so. He said Poteet interpreted the code differently, based on the state attorney general opinions.

“It’s not a black-or-white issue. You could make a plausible legal argument both ways,” he said.

Read more about the matter in Wednesday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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