WALDORF, Md. - More than a month after Charles County shut down a speed camera near Jenifer Elementary School on Berry Road, the sheriff's office is close to sending out refund checks to thousands of local drivers.
Since late July, the Charles County Sheriff's office has been working with Xerox Systems to identify who paid nearly 3,400 illegal speed camera tickets, reach out to them and send each driver a refund. Xerox is the vendor that supplies and helps operate the speed camera program in Charles County.
"We just did the right thing. We did what the sheriff would expect us to do and that's the right thing. Sheriff (Rex) Coffey insists upon the best practices. The words he uses 20 times a day is 'Do the right thing'," says Major Buddy Gibson.
But the task is daunting. Although there were speed camera problems last year in Baltimore, voluntarily refunding thousands of tickets is a first-of-its-kind effort that requires coordination and staffing in Maryland.
"It's a logistical nightmare to get all of our i's dotted and our t's crossed. Let them find the manpower to do all the legwork as opposed to us. We have limited resources. We're not inclined to be bringing in extra officers or paying a lot of overtime on this. The private section can do this better and more efficiently," says Gibson.
"I'm not going to get bogged down on the details on how it gets done. My job will be to make sure everyone who deserves a refund gets one. I will make sure the process goes correctly," he says.
Maryland law doesn't require Charles County or any jurisdiction to refund tickets retroactively. Drivers could file in District Court for a $40 refund, but the filing fee would wash out any award. Charles County volunteered to take this step.
More than $130,000 in refunds will be issued to drivers across Maryland and likely several other states. Once a deal is finalized with Xerox, Gibson says checks will go out quickly. Such an arrangement could come in the next week or two.
"I'm hopeful it will be weeks and not months. But at this point the final details are being ironed out," says Gibson.
He adds that everyone should expect their refund checks before the end of the year, if not much sooner.
The refunds will hit to both Xerox and Charles County. Under the contract, a portion of each paid $40 ticket goes to Xerox. A typical contract in Maryland has the vendor receiving about 35 to 40 percent of each ticket. The breakdown on who pays what portion of each refund will likely reflect that same ratio in the contract.
"I think it's a trust thing. I think the citizens know they can trust their elected officials will do the right thing without being caught," says Gibson.
Last Monday, all three speed cameras were put back online at two different sites. One site has cameras in both directions. Charles County has a total of twelve cement pads for the three speed cameras, which are rotated among the locations every two weeks.
Gibson adds that the Jenifer Elementary School location will not have a speed camera returned there until the issue that triggered the refunds is resolved.
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