Iowa Editorial: A questionable decision on red light camera tickets (and on public checks and balances)

Last Friday, a divided Iowa Supreme Court ruled — in what we consider a bad decision — that the names of car owners ticketed by automated speed cameras are not a public record.

The split decision came as the state’s top court ruled on a lawsuit filed by a former Ottumwa police sergeant who was ticketed while driving a city-owned car in May 2016 by the city’s speed camera. Typically such citations are issued to the vehicle’s registered owner based on the camera’s image of the vehicle’s license plate.

Mark Milligan, the former officer, filed an open records request after he was given the ticket as the driver. In his open records request, Milligan wanted to see the names of car owners caught on camera and ticketed as well as those caught speeding by the automated camera but not given a ticket.