A new letter from the Cook County State's
Attorney's Office refutes the idea that the county could force red-light
cameras on suburbs by threatening them with maintenance of the
Deputy State's Attorney Patrick Driscoll, the formal
liaison to the county board, wrote in a letter this week that he never
expressed such an opinion, and that he believes any transfer of
jurisdiction from the county to the municipality would have to be
mutually agreed upon. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the
Daily Herald, was written by Driscoll to county Commissioner Timothy
Schneider, a Republican from Bartlett.
Chicago Democratic Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and
spokesmen for President Todd Stroger have insisted Driscoll backed their
ultimatum to force red-light cameras on municipalities or put the onus
for maintenance and care of those intersections on municipalities that
Moreno claimed he had a legal opinion from Driscoll
stating that, if a suburb opted out of the program, it was in effect
claiming jurisdiction over a contested intersection and could be forced
to officially oversee it - a costly process meant to cow suburbs into
Driscoll, however, refused to comment on it publicly,
citing attorney-client privilege, at least until the release of this
"No such opinion exists," Driscoll wrote Schneider in answering his request for a copy of that supposed document.
The Stroger administration eased away from a hard-line
stance on the issue in response, while insisting that the legal
justification was not part of an official "opinion," but
"draft-amendment language" meant to explore amendments that could
potentially be added to the actual red-light-camera legislation.
Stroger spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said there could be a
legal issue over a continued high rate of accidents at a contested
intersection where a suburb opted out.
"The fact that the municipality declined to have
red-light cameras installed there might be exposed to litigation," she
said, while the county could argue it did all it could to prevent that.
Otherwise, however, Geovanis backed off whether the
county would attempt to force red-light cameras on reluctant suburbs.
"We're still considering our options," she said.
The Stroger administration "remains committed to working
within the spirit of Cook County law," she added, "and we continue to
review options for next steps..."
Moreno, who like Stroger is a lame duck, having lost his
re-election bid in the Democratic primary, did not respond to requests
Schneider also did not return a call for comment.
A county pilot program authorized earlier this year
would place 30 red-light cameras at intersections, including six in
Schaumburg, which has already tried and rejected red-light cameras.
Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson and state Rep. Mark Walker, an Arlington
Heights Democrat, came out against the Cook program last week and called
on Stroger to start a discussion with suburban officials on the issue.
In this week's letter, Driscoll wrote, "The county must
enter into an agreement with a municipality before transferring
maintenance responsibilities for county highways." He cited several
statutes for that opinion.
The county board does not have a meeting scheduled in August, but the issue figures to resurface at its next meeting Sept. 1.