Thursday, March 7, 2013

Maryland's Politically Connected Speed Camera Vendor

Yesterday, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled the county’s speed camera contract with its vendor, Xerox State & Local Solutions, is illegal.

Since their adoption in 2009, speed cameras have been controversial, and there are several bills filed in the legislature to either eliminate or reform the state’s speed camera law.  A Baltimore Sun investigation found numerous errors in Baltimore City’s program, including a camera that issued a citation to a stopped vehicle.
Xerox State & Local Solutions, formerly known as ACS, the speed camera vendor for many of Maryland’s jurisdictions has extensive political ties to Governor Martin O’Malley and the circles of political power in Maryland.

A review of state campaign finance records shows John Brophy Sr., ACS Group President of State and Local Solutions and his family contributed tens of thousands of dollars to O’Malley and key Maryland Democratic politicians. 




ACS is also a top state contractor. Between 2008-2012 earned more than $3.2 million in state contracts.  Xerox acquired ACS in 2010 for $6.4 billion. Brophy is now no longer with Xerox.



Brophy’s son, John Brophy Jr., was a classmate of O’Malley at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. and held high dollar fundraisers at the exclusive Columbia Country Club where he is an officer.  State campaign finance records show the younger Brophy gave generously to O’Malley.

Federal Election Commission records show the elder Brophy is also a prolific donor to Democratic politicians, including the political action committee associated with Democratic Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer from Southern Maryland.

After failing to adopt them in 2008, Maryland approved use of speed cameras in 2009.  State lobbying disclosures show that during both the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions, ACS enlisted several high priced Annapolis lobbyists including the former Speaker of the House of Delegates, Casper Taylor, to ensure passage of speed cameras.

One of those lobbyists, Sean Malone, of Harris Jones & Malone LLC, has ties to O’Malley going back to his tenure as mayor of Baltimore.  Malone served chief legal counsel for the Baltimore City Police Department, and the city’s labor commissioner, then as top legislative aide when O’Malley became governor.

Disclosure records show ACS spent $240,000 on lobbying for the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions.
When ACS wanted to expand the speed camera programs in Baltimore County and Howard County, they enlisted the assistance of the politically connected firm of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs.  Kearney O’Doherty crafted an Astroturf campaign of “citizen groups” complete with Facebook pages, to create the appearance of wide spread citizen support for unlimited expansion of speed cameras.  The firm’s principle partners are O’Malley’s former communications director Steve Kearney, and Damian O’Doherty, an aide to former Baltimore County Executive, Jim Smith.

After Patch.com broke the story of Kearney and O’Doherty’s involvement on behalf of ACS, the company added a disclosure statement to the Facebook sites acknowledging the groups receive support from the company.
ACS mounted a similar campaign in Pennsylvania to approve red light cameras.

Kearney and O’Doherty are also the founders of Center Maryland, a news and aggregator site, which purports to provide “the news you need straight down the middle.”  However, Kearney and O’Doherty have proven themselves to be quite the partisans.  The company is a generous donor the Maryland Democratic Party, and during the 2010 gubernatorial election they set up a series of high-dollar fundraisers for Governor O’Malley’s reelection campaign featuring Vice President Joe Biden, and then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Center Maryland features an occasional video podcast with O’Doherty and lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones, who is partners with Sean Malone in Harris Jones Malone, LLC.  Lobbying disclosures show ACS paid Lisa Harris Jones to lobby for speed cameras.

In addition to speed cameras, Kearney O’Doherty has represented clients for other controversial issues.  They represented MGM on behalf of the gaming corporation’s push to expand gambling in Maryland, and the group of politically connected developers of the State Center project, which is on hold due to the O’Malley administration’s violation of state procurement laws.

Kearney and O’Doherty have refused to disclose whether or not Center Maryland features articles that benefit their clients.

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