Former Chicago official convicted in red light camera bribery case

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 26, 2016 5:45 PM

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago jury on Tuesday convicted a former transportation official in a $2 million bribery scheme for using his influence to expand contracts for the city's red light traffic camera business.

John Bills, 54, a former assistant transportation commissioner, helped get millions of dollars in contracts for Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, part of Redflex Holdings Ltd.

In exchange for his efforts that resulted in the installation of hundreds of red-light cameras at intersections, Bills received cash, golf outings, hotel rooms and airline tickets, the jury found. He was convicted on fraud, extortion and bribery charges.

The unpopular $100 tickets for red light camera violations became a hot issue in the 2015 mayoral election, which was won by incumbent Rahm Emanuel.

Some of the benefits were given directly to Bills, while some came through a friend, Martin O'Malley, a former Redflex contractor who testified against Bills at the two-week trial.

O'Malley testified at trial that he often stuffed lavish bonuses into envelopes and gave it to Bills during meals in Chicago restaurants.

Bills, who retired from the city in 2011, faces more than 300 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 5.

Both O'Malley and Karen Finley, a former CEO of Redflex, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. Finley was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 18, but O'Malley's sentencing date has not yet been set.

A unit of Xerox Corp now runs the city's traffic camera system.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)