An at-large Toledo councilman and his wife were quickly off the hook for speeding tickets the couple got in February after the citations were handed over to the chief of police.
Councilman Rob Ludeman, who is running for re-election this year, said the Feb. 1 tickets — issued with the city’s handheld speed camera devices — were dismissed because neither he nor his wife, Elaine Ludeman, were in a school zone.
“The picture showed obviously I was two and a half blocks away when he clocked me going the speed limit for where I was,” Mr. Ludeman said. “It was quite a while away from the Byrnedale school zone.”
Toledo councilman Rob Ludeman, left, and Toledo Police Chef Kral.
Mr. Ludeman said the officer was on Glendale Avenue just inside the Byrnedale school zone pointing the speed-gun camera outside of the zone, recording vehicles.
“I went to the chief because the officer was standing in an improper location, and I think the chief needs to know and he has to have his officers moved to a proper location to properly administer the speed gun,” he said. “I went out and showed the ticket to the chief and showed that the officer was clearly not shooting the gun in the school zone, and he said ‘oh my gosh, let me talk to the officer.’ “
Mr. Ludeman was ticketed at 9:01 a.m. and his wife was ticketed in a different vehicle at 9:08 a.m.
Thirty-eight people, including Mr. Ludeman and his wife, were ticketed at that site that morning, starting at 8:51 a.m. until 9:09 a.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Ludeman’s tickets — each costing $120 — were dismissed without the couple appearing for one of the regular appeals hearings held downtown at One Government Center.
“If I was guilty, I would have paid,” Mr. Ludeman said.
But were the speeding tickets fixed for the other 36 motorists who got them for speeding at the same time in the same place?
Records show 18 paid in full, one identified someone else as the driver that day, 14 were sent “full default” notices, one person was set to be sent a default notice, and tickets were dismissed for two people other than the Ludemans.
It was not clear if any of the motorists who were sent default notices had paid since May 26, the date The Blade asked for this year’s handheld speed-camera citation data.
Police Chief George Kral said he would dismiss any ticket under the same circumstances. He also said Mr. Ludeman did not get special treatment.
“Councilman Ludeman approached me and said he and his wife received speeding tickets and said the officer was in the incorrect position,” the chief said.
Chief Kral said he handed the issue over to the lieutenant in charge of the handheld-speed camera program who then determined Mr. Ludeman was correct.
“He will look up the citation and if a person is correct, or it is marginal, or if the person would understand with a warning, the ticket will be dismissed,” the chief said.
He also said a citation can be dismissed outside of an appeal hearing.
“The reason Councilman Ludeman contacted me is because he knows me as chief,” Chief Kral said.
Mr. Ludeman said he assumed everyone else who received tickets that morning near the school would have had them dismissed. He said the city should go back and refund those 18 people and dismiss the rest.
Referring to those circumstances, Toledo police Lt. Joe Heffernan, the department’s spokesman, said “anyone who got a ticket they think is in error would just need to contact us.”
Zarah Sloan, one of the motorists cited the same morning as the Ludemans, said she did not have the time to go downtown to fight the ticket.
“I travel for work all the time and paid it late, so I had [to pay] an extra 20 bucks,” Ms. Sloan said. “That is what they rely on — people just paying — so I just paid it online.”
Ms. Sloan said she did not think she was in a school zone at that time.
“I am pretty mindful of that,” she said. “I saw the officer sitting there, I was under 40 [miles per hour], and then he didn’t flash the light or anything.”
Mr. Ludeman contacted The Blade by email after the newspaper ran a story Sunday about handheld speed cameras that said he and two other councilmen had received such tickets this year. The councilman was upset that the article didn’t say his ticket had been dismissed.
“If you had called me or checked the facts the officer was clocking drivers right at the flashing light before the school zone,” the email said. “I was not in the school zone. I created the school zone flashing light program and respect it. I showed the ticket to Chief Kral and the officer was ordered to move back 150 yards. I was not guilty of anything and the ticket was revoked.”
Councilman Larry Sykes got one of the 29,615 tickets issued with the hand-held devices between Jan. 1 and May 26. He was caught speeding on Dorr Street in front of Little Flower Elementary School at 2:12 p.m. Feb. 1.
Councilman Tyrone Riley also was caught speeding on southbound I-75 at 1:34 p.m. on March 22. Mr. Riley said he is going to challenge the ticket by going though the normal appeal hearing process.
“I just need clarification,” he said. “I think I was going 60, and there is a sign right there that said 60.”
Mr. Riley said he did not consider giving the ticket to the chief or any other high-ranking officials.
Of the 29,615 handheld tickets issued between Jan. 1 and May 26, only 370 were dismissed; 5,701 were too new to be challenged by the vehicle owners; 6,103 were listed at “full default,” and 641 were sent to collections. The majority of the remaining tickets were paid.
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson budgeted $2.3 million from fines this year generated by handheld speed cameras. The city collected $1.84 million by the end of May, putting it on track to collect more than $4.3 million by the end of 2017 if the same numbers of speeders are nailed with those tickets monthly.
Part of that money has been spent. Toledo City Council approved the mayor’s plan to spend $250,000 more to hire new police officers a month earlier this year, from August to July.
The mayor said the extra money from speeding offenses appeared to be coming from out-of-town wallets.
Records show nearly 46 percent of the tickets were sent to Toledoans between Jan. 1 and May 26. Of those 29,615 citations, 13,574 were sent to the registered owners of vehicles with Toledo mailing addresses.