An Arizona-based technology company saw a financial windfall by positioning itself at the center of those efforts as New York moved to expand its traffic camera programs in recent years significantly.
It did so while brushing off a 2020 lawsuit that claimed it overbilled the city and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying.
Street safety activists have rejoiced as the city’s camera network has grown from approximately 20 school zones to 750 in the previous ten years.
The initiative, which was expanded to include 24/7 in school zones last year, seems effective: According to city data, the speed rate in areas with video monitoring decreased by 73% during operational hours to the end of 2021.
Verra Mobility Corporation, a Mesa, Arizona-based transportation technology provider, has also benefited greatly.
Since January 2014, the company has signed four camera contracts with the city Department of Transportation totaling $951 million, according to public documents.
Verra has also been troubled by the 2020 case, whose city contracts were preceded by significant expenditures on government lobbying.
In that complaint, the administration of former Mayor Bill de Blasio and a whistleblower accused Verra of erecting dangerously non-compliant electricity poles, installing more than 150 poles that weren’t essential, and collecting millions in payments from the city for the allegedly unneeded work.
The complaint claimed that Verra, which signed a $159 million contract with the city in 2014 to operate its red light and bus lane cameras, ran a careless operation and “failed to instruct and train” employees on how to abide by local laws.
The allegations were made by a whistleblower named William Marshfield, an electrician.
According to the lawsuit, Marshfield was fired due to his objections about Verra’s construction of unneeded and noncompliant electricity poles.
Verra eventually reached a $1.3 million settlement with Marshfield and the city on November 22, 2021, without admitting wrongdoing. According to the contract, Verra gave Marshfield $270,284 and the city just over $1 million.
In the settlement agreement, which the Daily News obtained, the de Blasio administration argued that it had a basis for bringing civil lawsuits against Verra under the New York False Claims Act.
However, the administration claimed that it had agreed not to pursue those allegations in exchange for the settlement sum.
The Department of Transportation gave Verra a new $367 million contract to continue managing the city’s red light and bus lane camera system about two months after the settlement was reached.
One of the first significant contracts signed by Mayor Adams’ newly appointed Transportation Commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, in mid-January 2022 also occurred against a Department of Investigation investigation into Verra’s operations.
In March 2021, the DOI placed the company under a monitorship, according to spokesman Eric Lenkowitz, “owing to concerns regarding shortcomings with relation to Verra’s installation of photo enforcement equipment.”
Sam Schwartz Engineering, a consultancy company, is in charge of the monitorship, which is in effect through March 2024.
It’s “impossible for me to comprehend,” according to Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a Democrat who serves as chair of the Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, why the Transportation Department decided to continue doing business with Verra despite the settlement.