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January 13, 2014

Attorney: Agreement needed on school bus cameras

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council intends to take steps this week to help alleviate any legal costs connected to the use of security cameras on local school buses.

The Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday to enter into a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Greenville Independent School District, which could come into play in the event drivers ticketed under a city ordinance decide to file litigation.

The vote is included under Tuesday’s regular session, starting at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 2821 Washington Street. A work session is also set for 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Last month, the Greenville Independent School District Board approved a measure to allow for security cameras to be installed on local school buses.

The district’s administration and legal counsel met with TexServe, also known as Dallas County Schools (DCS), who would supply 11 security cameras and other equipment to outfit 30 of the district’s school buses to provide photographic evidence of illegal school bus passings.

In May, the Greenville City Council voted to pass  a “Photographic Enforcement and Administrative Adjudication of School Bus Stop Arm Violations” ordinance. Under the program, the cameras would be remotely monitored by people working with the Dallas County Schools District. If a potential violation is confirmed by the office, the video from multiple different cameras would be forwarded to a Greenville Police Department officer to review. The officer could then approve a citation to be sent to the owner of the vehicle as determined by the license plate number and registration records.

The ordinance set a $300 fine for illegally passing a school bus in the city limits, creates a position of “hearing officer” that would hear any appeals in the Municipal Court, and created an appeal process whereby a defendant can appeal a ruling to the Municipal Court Judge. The City of Greenville would receive 12.5 percent of all fines collected.

But in a memo to the council, City Attorney Daniel Ray said since the program and the law that supports it are relatively new, he is concerned about potential liability costs.

“Therefore, the City Attorney’s office is recommending that the City enter into an MOU with the GISD to create a 6-month revolving escrow account for all City and GISD monies received from the program to cover any unforeseen liability costs,” Ray said. “The money in that account would be used to cover litigation costs if one of the ticketed drivers sues the City or the GISD.”

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