NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team just tracked down a local mayor who had been avoiding us and tough questions affecting everyone driving on Interstate 77 passing through Newburgh Heights.
And yet Mayor Gigi Traore refused to respond, even with a camera rolling.
Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Deborah Nicastro said the way Newburgh Heights is handling traffic camera tickets on I-77 is illegal. The judge said village officials are violating state law by not filing the camera enforcement tickets with the court. The Judge said last week that village officials told her they did not want to pay the $9 filing fee. In other words, the village could keep that money.
For a couple of weeks, we put in requests to talk to village leaders about the traffic camera issues and we received no response.
On Monday, we found Mayor Traore talking to three Newburgh Heights police officers prior to a holiday parade. When we tried talk to the mayor, she turned her back on us and walked to a group of Boy Scouts. She ignored all of our questions.
“The judge in Garfield Heights court says you’re breaking the law. What do you have to say to that,” asked I-Team reporter Ed Gallek.
Traore did not respond. When asked if there was a reason the village was not paying the filing fee, she also declined to answer that question. She just walked away.
We also sent emails to police Chief John Majoy. We did not receive a response.
We also sent two emails to each Newburgh Heights councilmember, asking to discuss the issue. Two of the five councilmembers responded.
Councilman Bill Dunman said he will send us a response sometime this week.
Councilwoman Linda Giersz responded by email. She wrote: “I’m afraid the ongoing situation is between the current mayor, GHMC [the Garfield Heights court], and the legal departments,” Giersz wrote. “Any and all questions should be directed to the mayor.”
The I-Team also went through recent legislation passed by council and found lawmakers passed an ordinance stating village officials “shall file” the civil violation ticket with the court and pay the filing fee. Village leaders will not answer any questions as to why the village is not following its own ordinances.
The I-Team also found Newburgh Heights will now be expanding its camera enforcement program. The village will now have traffic enforcement cameras in school zones. That ordinance passed May 2.
“This ordinance is hereby determined to be an emergency measure necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and welfare of the village and its residents, the emergency being the need to commence operation of a school zone camera as quickly as possible so that the village may discourage speeding infraction in school zones for the benefit of school age children,” the ordinance states.
It is not known when the school zone camera program will start.
The Garfield Heights Municipal Court has hired a law firm to investigate how the tickets are being handled and what’s required under the law.
Jerry Watkins is a driver ticketed by a speed camera in Newburgh Heights with a $180 fine.
“Here, it just seems like a moneymaking opportunity,” he said. “If they’re expecting us to follow the law, why are they not following the law? It’s just not right.”
The court said this year Newburgh Heights is on-pace to issue 70,000 traffic camera tickets.