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Miami commissioner battling red-light cameras received two tickets

Miami Commissioner and mayoral candidate Francis Suarez wants to remove the city’s controversial red-light cameras -- and has vowed to raise the issue when the commission meets on Thursday.

He has some first-hand knowledge of the program.

Vehicles registered to Suarez have received two tickets from red-light cameras since 2010, according to records obtained by the Herald/Times from American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, the Arizona vendor that provides the cameras for most of the Florida municipalities that use them.

One of the tickets was later dismissed, but one remains uncollected, a company spokesman said.

Suarez said he didn’t recall either.

"In both cases, I suspect I was doing a very benign action that would not have been ticked by a police officer," he said. "That highlights the problems people have with these systems... they were supposed to be about safety, but they have really become about generating revenue."

The first violation took place in Coral Gables on March 13, 2010, according to ATS records. There is a balance due of $125.

“As far as our records go, it was never paid,” ATS spokesman Charles Territo said.

Video provided by the company shows an Audi registered to Suarez approaching a red light at Alhambra Circle and South Le Jeune Road -- and turning right without first stopping.

Had the ticket been issued a few months later, the consequences would have been far more severe. Under a law that went into effect in June 2010, motorists who fail to pay their red-light tickets can have their licenses suspended and their vehicle registrations terminated. The penalties for unpaid tickets issued before the legislation are more nebulous.

The Coral Gables Police Department did not immediately return calls for comment.

Video of the second violation, which took place on Feb. 24, 2012 at the intersection of Coral Way and Southwest 32nd Avenue in Miami, shows Suarez’s black Ford making a late U-turn at a red light. The ticket was later dismissed, Territo said.

Suarez said he did not remember the details.

"I pay my tickets like any other person," he said. "I must not have gotten notice."

Incumbent Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who is running for reelection, has not received any tickets for red-light violations, according to ATS records. Regalado supports Miami’s camera program, which generates more than $3 million in annual revenue for the city.

The issue drew public scrutiny late last month, when Miami temporarily suspended the program as the result of a new state law requiring municipalities to hold their own hearings for appeals of red-light camera tickets. The commission will vote Thursday on whether to establish special hearing boards.