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Lawyer Claims City Created Cash Cow with Code Treating Traffic Violations as Municipal Infractions

“They’re turning traffic tickets into tickets paid to the city, and they’re doing it for money,” says a lawyer who is representing a West Bloomfield man in his lawsuit against Keego Harbor.

Keego Harbor officials are illegally collecting fines on traffic violations, a lawyer asserts in a lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court. (Photo: Getty Images)
Keego Harbor officials are illegally collecting fines on traffic violations, a lawyer asserts in a lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court. (Photo: Getty Images)

A West Bloomfield man claims in a lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court that Keego Harbor city officials are using an illegal city ordinance to create a revenue stream that may have pumped $180,000 into city coffers.

An attorney representing Timothy Kennedy, who was cited in April 2013 for impeding traffic, says Keego Harbor officials “are essentially being pirates,” The Oakland Press reports.

The attorney, Jeffrey Hansche of Commerce Township, said that his client was ordered to pay the $100 ordinance violation at Keego City Hall, rather than being referred to district court.

The ordinance enacted three years ago classifies certain traffic violations as municipal civil infractions, which Hansche claims is illegal under state law. Normally, municipal civil violations apply to such things as zoning, building codes, animal complaints and other non-traffic infractions.

Michigan law specifically excludes state uniform driving violations from being under ordinances dealing with municipal issues, the attorney said.

“They’re turning traffic tickets into tickets paid to the city,” Hansche said, “and they’re doing it for the money.”

The lawyer said in the lawsuit  that in two months in 2013, the city brought in $9,600 from the tickets. At that rate, Keego Harbor would have cleared $60,000 a year, or $180,000 in three years.

The lawsuit seeks triple reimbursement for the $100 ticket, or $300, for his client and may consider a class action suit.

“This is an issue of basic rights and what we expect from our local governments,” said Hansche. “They’re taking money from the state, courts and people that get the tickets.”

Keego Harbor Councilman Sidney Rubin defended the ordinance, telling The Oakland Press that he’s “absolutely thrilled with the work (Keego’s) police department has done, especially stepping up in the temporary absence of our police chief .”

Chief Kenneth Hurst is on medical leave, which prompted Keego Harbor and West Bloomfield to enter into a temporary agreement to share some police services.

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