City officials appear to defy judge’s demand to refund speed trap money

KINLOCH, Mo. – From St. Charles County to St. Louis, women say they cannot get their money back from voided speeding tickets. This despite a judge who demanded the end of a questionable speed trap.

“Those of us who tried to do the right thing and be good citizens (are punished),” said one woman, who asked not to be identified.

Another woman added, “I’m out of $100 now because I was trying to do the right thing.”Both women denied speeding.

Thousands of people got similar tickets in the mail. They involved two small towns who worked with a private security company called Public Safety First Partners. Security officers in unmarked cars targeted drivers on busy thoroughfares.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar was outraged when Fox 2 showed him the findings.

“(If) somebody who poses as law enforcement is going to say that we’re merely here to take money out of people’s pockets for the sake of a municipality, that’s wrong,” Belmar said in March.

Uplands Park withdrew from the program after Fox 2 asked officials about it.

“We decided to withdraw from the program and we requested the company to send letters to everyone that was involved, telling them that they were not obligated to pay any fines,” said Uplands Park Chairman B.W. Shelton.

Uplands Park also promised refunds.

A St. Louis County judge intervened after a citizen complained about a violation notice from Kinloch. He warned city officials from the bench that their speed enforcement program “misleads the public.” The judge also asked for proof the program is even legal. Kinloch officials agreed to back out of the program, putting it in writing to the court.

The judge wrote, “the court orders the City of Kinloch to cease and refrain in the future from using any traffic control system which was contracted out between the City of Kinloch and Public Safety First Partners.”

But citizens said they’re being told they have to pay the tickets even after the judge said they didn't.

“Actually, I was just threatened,” said one woman. “They told me either I can actually finish paying the payment or they can issue me a warrant.”

According to the official court transcript in the hearing over a citizen complaint, Judge Douglas Beach told Kinloch's city attorney, “any tickets...that are outstanding should be cancelled...” Beach added, “(the city is) specifically instructed not to take money from anybody and all money must be returned.”

Fox 2 emailed the transcript to City Manager Justine Blue and former Kinloch Judge turned City Attorney Christopher Bent, who was in court that day

“I believe the words you are relying on in your email is (sic) nothing more than dicta,” Bent said. “They are not part of an enforceable court order.” That means it may take another court hearing to clear this up. Those ticketed may have to ask the judge to send Kinloch something in writing.