A retired Chicago official who managed the city’s red light camera program for almost a decade was arrested Wednesday for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to steer city contracts to Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc.
John Bills, 52, is accused of receiving cash bribes and other forms of payment, including a $177,000 condominium in Arizona, in exchange for allegedly funneling $124 million in city contracts to Phoenix-based Redflex, which manages Chicago's camera program, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said in a statement.
Bills was charged with one count of federal program bribery. After a Wednesday afternoon court appearance, Bills' lawyer said the former city official has done nothing wrong.
Nishay Sanan told reporters outside court that Bills "denies taking a bribe from anyone." He says Redflex is facing legal troubles elsewhere and is trying to make Bills the "scapegoat" for their misdeeds.
According to an FBI affidavit, the bribes allegedly were given to Bills through his one-time friend who received $2 million as a consultant to Redflex. Drinks and meals allegedly were paid for, debts Bills had accumulated were paid for and personal expenses for him and his family were covered, according to the affidavit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Samborn notes Bills allegedly received cash and checks from the individual between 2003, when Chicago awarded Redflex the initial contract, and 2011.
Bills retired in 2011 as managing deputy commissioner of Chicago’s transportation department after 32 years. He managed the red light program and was a member of the contract evaluation committee.
Chicago paid Redflex about $25 million between 2004 and 2008 to install and maintain 136 camera systems in Chicago and assist in reviewing and processing violations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.