Until last week, at least one business development executive was making inroads in Washington state by cheerleading for the company and personally attacking opponents under an assumed name in dozens of comments left on the website of a local newspaper, according to a story in Seattle Weekly.
The Scottsdale, Ariz., company suspended Bill Kroske -- or W. Howard, as he signed his posts -- after a tech zen master with The Herald of Everett, Wash., traced W. Howard’s Internet protocol address back to American Traffic Solutions.
Company president and CEO James Tuton told The Herald in a statement that Kroske had been suspended.
“We appreciate this issue being brought to our attention and want to be clear: we do not encourage or condone the kind of behavior your investigation seems to have uncovered,” Tuton wrote. “ATS is disappointed and embarrassed by these actions. Such a lack of disclosure violates not only ATS company policy, but also our core values. While we share in the commenter's passion for red light safety cameras, we also recognize the importance of honest engagement. The employee in question has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.”
After Kroske’s exposure, a local red-light opponent Kroske had referred to in posts as “Slick Timmy Eyman” sent a congratulatory e-mail saying The Herald "has done the public a great service: They've exposed American Traffic Solutions for the total sleazeballs that they are."
However, other red-light commentators on the Herald’s website have suggested that American Traffic Solutions has implemented this novel anonymous public relations blitz on lots of other newspaper websites around the country. As yet, no other paper has investigated.
By less anonymous measures, red-light cameras are big business and American Traffic Solutions a significant player. Through this month, 538 American communities paid companies to install and operate red-light cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Sixty-one of those communities, including Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, are in Texas.
Houston voters in November rejected the cameras, and the city filed suit to end its ATS contract.
American Traffic Solutions boasts on its website of having 230 customers and installing 2,100 systems nationwide. Of those 61 Texas cities, ATS represents 26, including Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving and Amarillo, according to a map provided to Texas Watchdog by the company.
The company apparently isn’t done in Texas. Two legislative sessions ago American Traffic Solutions hired no lobbyists under that corporate name, according to legally required lobbying reports kept with the Texas Ethics Commission. For the 2009 session, the company hired two lobbyists at contracts of less than $10,000 each.
For this session, however, ATS has retained five lobbyists, one with a contract valued at between $100,000 and $149,999; two with $25,000 to $49,999 contracts; one with a contract of from $10,000 to $24,999; and one for less than $10,000, according to Ethics Commission records.
We assume that these five lobbyists have registered with the state under their real names.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo of red-light camera sign by flickr user fringehog, used via a Creative Commons license.