More plaintiffs join class-action lawsuit over Cedar Rapids traffic cameras

Contract says Gatso responsible for keeping cameras in compliance with rules

Radar-enabled speed cameras are attached to a sign post as traffic moves along northbound Interstate 380 near the Diagon
Radar-enabled speed cameras are attached to a sign post as traffic moves along northbound Interstate 380 near the Diagonal Dr. SW exit on Friday, May 21, 2010, in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A class-action lawsuit challenging automated traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids has been expanded to include six more plaintiffs in addition to the original two.

An amendment to the lawsuit was filed on Monday in Linn County District Court.

The new plaintiffs include three residents of Linn County and three out-of-state residents.

Named are David L. Mazgaj, of Cedar Rapids, James Louis Sparks, an employee of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office from Palo, and Edward G. Robinson, an e-commerce shipping employee from Marion, Jerry Northrup, an employee in the sign-making industry from Clearwater, Fla., Daniel Ray French, of Lake City, Minn., and Jeffrey V. Stimpson, a commercial airline pilot from Bluefield, West Virginia.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 2, claims the speed cameras fail to provide adequate notice to motorists, and that the cameras target certain motorists while thousands more are exempt, such as more than 50,000 Iowa vehicles without rear license plates, 3,200 government vehicles not included in a state database, more than 100,000 out of state vehicles without rear-facing license plates, and others not included in a database used to issue tickets.

Each of the six new plaintiffs was ticketed by a system they believe is “unfair and unjust,” but paid the fee under threat of being sent to a collection agency or civil litigation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to turn the cameras off pending the outcome of the lawsuit, and refunds for people who’ve received tickets in the last two years.

The new plaintiffs join Gary Hughes, of Marion, and Arash Yarpezeshkan, of Cedar Rapids.

The City of Cedar Rapids and Gatso USA, the camera vendor incorporated in Delaware, are named defendants.

A message seeking comment was left for Cedar Rapids, and a defense attorney for Gatso declined to comment. A message was also left for James Larew, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The camera program, which has faced criticism by some for fairness and due process and praise by others for improving safety since being launched in 2010, came under a new round of scrutiny.

The Iowa Department of Transportation pointed out in August that two of the most prolific cameras in the system don’t comply with new state rules requiring at least 1,000 feet between a camera and a speed limit change.

Cedar Rapids has stood behind the program and offered solutions such as a waiver or moving speed limit signs.

According to Cedar Rapids’ contract with Gatso, which is cited in the lawsuit, Gatso is responsible for costs of maintaining the cameras including keeping them in compliance with standards of Cedar Rapids and the Iowa DOT.