The leading candidate to land Orange County's $16 million red-light-camera expansion is a company engulfed in a scandal involving a similar system in Chicago.
A series of Chicago Tribune reports and an internal investigation paid for by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. indicates the company might have built its business in Chicago through a $2 million bribery scheme involving a former city official who oversaw the program.
The allegations have triggered the departure of top executives at the Phoenix-based company.
Despite the controversy, Redflex stands the best chance to win the contract to expand Orange County's red-light camera program, having outscored other competitors in early staff reviews of bids.
"If it's an isolated incident, I'm not concerned about it," said Commissioner Ted Edwards, the elected official assigned to the bid review.
A vote by the board to pick a winner for the expansion contract was slated for Tuesday. But late last week officials delayed that vote until possibly next month, partly at the request of a competing company.
Redflex and its local lobbyist, Holland & Knight attorney Tommy Boroughs, declined requests for interviews...
Red-light cameras have been a lightning rod for controversy in Florida.
Last year, 71 cities and counties deployed red-light cameras at intersections, sending $51 million to the state's general-revenue pot and additional revenues to trust funds that help pay for trauma and brain and spinal-cord injury centers.
Because of legislative opposition in recent years, Orange moved cautiously in launching its initial 10-intersection system in early 2011.
In picking a company to handle its latest expansion to 80 more intersections, Orange used several technical, pricing and other measures to rate the bidders. Redflex scored better than three other companies, including the one running the county's current system, American Traffic Solutions, or ATS.
In December, ATS protested the scores, arguing that its own point totals were too low and ignored the work it had done on the existing system. But after a subsequent round of scoring, Redflex's lead over ATS actually grew slightly, records show.
At a bid protest meeting on Feb. 11, Redflex Traffic System CEO Karen Finley made a pitch for her company. A few weeks later, amid the mushrooming Chicago scandal, Finley resigned.
Soon after, Redflex's parent company laid out to shareholders an outline of "an alleged bribery scheme the company said was 'apparently proposed' by the former city official who oversaw its contract," according to the Chicago Tribune, a sister newspaper of the Sentinel...
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