Good Ol’ Boys
When Nickey Maxey created iTraffic, he had plenty of experience from his time in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he made millions off of contracts to place pay phone systems in jails. His connection in the endeavor, former Knoxville Sheriff Tim Hutchinson, has had his own bank loan problems and was sued by Citizens National Bank, of Athens, Tennessee, for $4.8 million in March of 2010.
Hutchinson and Maxey are much closer than just “Facebook friends.” Records show that the both individuals have a history on failing to pay on millions of dollars in loans with banks. Maxey built a mansion in Hilton Head, which was sold at a foreclosure auction to Liberty Savings Bank for $4.2 million. The bank assumed an additional $2 million owed on a second mortgage. A questionable land deal was also exposed in Knoxville News-Sentinel in 2004, by reporter Scott Barker who wrote: “RMCH Developers bought the land from Nickey Maxey, another associate of the sheriff who receives business from the Sheriff’s Office, for $1.32 million, nearly five times the going rate for Wears Valley on a per acre basis.”
Maxey’s current business partner for iTraffic is William Danzell. Securities and Exchange Commission records show that Danzell was involved with a ticket camera company similar to iTraffic in Knoxville called Nestor. Knoxville News Sentinel reported in 2007 that Nestor ultimately went out of business, but not before Danzell tried to force the board of directors to name Hutchinson and Maxey to the Nestor Board.
Maxey brought his Knoxville brand of nepotism to Ridgeland, South Carolina, in August 2010 with the implementation of the iTraffic system. Strom Law Firm’s suit alleges that iTraffic is getting a cutback of half of every ticket written, but Mayor Hodges during a Senate subcommittee hearing claimed the figure is $24.50 per ticket. It is difficult to determine exactly how many tickets are being issued and how the funds are being distributed, due to the secrecy of the Town of Ridgeland and the fact that it ignores state records requests filed by this newspaper.
According to a January 27 article by The State called “Ban on highway cameras advances,” the State of South Carolina gets $84 every ticket and Hodges admitted Ridgeland netting about $100,000 from the tickets to date. The ticket scam may be coming to an end as a state Senate subcommittee gave its approval to a bill to ban the cameras. During that hearing state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, told town officials, ‘You are operating in defiance of the law.’”
Is it about Safety?
Ridgeland officials claim that their automated ticketing outfit is all about safety.
The Town of Ridgeland claims the camera light used is a “soft red light.” However, City Paper tested the system at night by repeatedly driving past the RV at over 80 miles per hour. We cannot for the life of us understand how a blinding white light could be construed as a “soft red light,” anymore than the single-finger gesture issued by this reporter towards the camera and the Town of Ridgeland is to be construed as a “friendly wave.”
Strom Law Firm makes similar allegations in its official complaint, “While Defendants contend that the traffic enforcement is to promote safety, the program was truly designed to generate revenue. Moreover, the traffic enforcement actually creates additional danger due to the placement of the traffic control vehicle and the blinding flash of light used to take a photograph of prospective and alleged violators.”
Perhaps U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (right) will help Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges (left) find jobs and revenue for Ridgeland that doesn’t involve violating state law and sharing the profits with legislators.
Ultimately, if the setup is about safety, then why is iTraffic palling around with state politicians and offering them thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. It sure seems that they’re more interested in protecting their revenue stream than anything else:
Maxey contributed $750 to State Senator Tom Davis. iTraffic Safety, LLC, gave $2,000 to the Nikki Haley campaign, and $1,000 to Vincent Sheheen just in case she didn’t pan out. But the largest legislative buttering up might be the $3,500 they gave to the Palmetto Leadership Council.
Maxey also openly invited Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer to stop by his government-subsidized farm in Estill, South Carolina. Maxey’s farm has received $13,754 in USDA subsidies for his property to date. There is a bit of irony in these subsidies, when his business partner Danzell posted openly on Facebook, “Is our Government too big to fail? or will it fail because it is too big?”
In the end, if the Town of Ridgeland is ultimately concerned about safety, then why isn’t it bothering to stop drivers on I-95? The town seems content to let drivers careen recklessly en route to Georgia so long as they get their $133.
For now victims of the scam can only wait for legal rulings in Federal court or wait for the cameras to be banned. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is raise your middle fingers high towards the sky as you drive through the town of Ridgeland!