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City Councilman Frustrated With Lack of Transparency After Speed Camera Hearing [FULL HEARING]
Updated: Tuesday, February 4 2014, 05:23 PM EST
A Baltimore City Councilman lashed out after a hearing steered subpoena powers he requested to undertake an investigation of a secret speed camera audit to the committee of a colleague. On Tuesday a vote placed the probe in the Judiciary Committee, instead of the Taxation and Finance committee city councilman Carl Stokes chairs.
"The citizens of the city are certainly tired of the gamesmanship that goes on here at City Hall," Stokes said during the hearing. "They are pretty much fed up with our inability not only to be transparent, but to follow up."
Stokes had requested subpoena powers to obtain documents and compel testimony from city officials after the Baltimore Sun obtained an audit that showed city officials knew speed cameras were issuing far more erroneous tickets than they admitted publicly. But after a tense procedural hearing the council decided to move the hearing to the Judiciary and Investigations committee chaired by Jim Kraft. It's a move Stokes says was intended to "whitewash" the process.
"I'm a citizen also and I don't like what's happening within our city and within our city government," Councilman Carl Stokes said.
According to Stokes, the amendment, which was passed at the hearing on Tuesday, changes the direction of the resolution as well as the investigation itself.
But Kraft, chairman of the committee, which will now carry out the investigation with the subpoena, said he intends to conduct a thorough investigation.
"[Stokes] asked the council to give him certain powers, the council declined to do it," Kraft said. "I intend to fully investigate the matter, my intentions are to take all of the information that [has been] provided thus far, find out what documents we don't have, determine what documents we need...identify the people we know that have been involved in this, to bring them in, to ask them to explain...to hold anybody that needs to be accountable, accountable."
Kraft said his council will also ask for powers that would allow it to make referrals to a law enforcement agency if it believes anyone needs to be prosecuted. He did not give a timeline but noted that the investigation would not begin "until we have all the tools we need."
According to Stokes, if the power had been granted to his committee, the investigation into the troubled speed camera system could have already begun.
"Today could have been the first day of the investigation itself," Stokes said. "We didn't have to be here today. There was a legitimate resolution on the floor of the council, chartered, centered and able to move forward. A majority of our council members said, 'Yes, let's go with this.'"
Stokes expressed frustration at what he called a lack of transparency.
"Let's hope that we can bring forward as much transparency in this matter and other matters - this is not the only matter, this keeps happening again and again here in this building," Stokes said. "It happens too often...We are damn tired of this kind of nonsense."
The resolution was introduced after a secret audit revealed the city's speed camera system had a higher rate of errors than city officials previously admitted.
[CLICK HERE to watch the full hearing]