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Board to rethink taxicab licenses

Driver’s health prompts revocation, review

The city’s Board of Public Safety plans to take a closer look next month at the process for approving taxicab applications after a discussion Monday led to concerns about provisional licenses being given to drivers.

The decision to review the policy stems from a taxicab application that was presented to the board Monday.

The driver, who applied to drive for an existing taxicab company, received a provisional license, said Steve Sorgen, who has maintained taxicab applications for the board for the past few months.

“When somebody comes in and applies, I get their background checks from both the city and the county and I go through their application, and if there’s nothing that jumps out as far as a large medical risk, criminal history and their license is valid, I send the document and the background check to the law department,” Sorgen said.

The application and the background checks are then reviewed by City Attorney Troy Kiefer, who presents them to the board.

According to city code, the director of Weight and Measures, with approval from the city attorney’s office, may issue a provisional license, not to exceed 60 days until a permanent license is issued by the Board of Public Safety.

The board can then vote to deny the license based on an applicant’s history, including any felony conviction within the past five years or based on medical history.

With the provisional taxicab license, the man was permitted to drive for 60 days, or until the board approved his permanent license.

The driver takes 12 different medications, some for diabetes and others typically prescribed to people at risk of heart disease or heart attacks, Kiefer said.

Kiefer said he had reviewed the application before the meeting and recommended that the board deny his request until he could provide a letter from a physician stating that his health would not interfere with his ability to drive.

On Monday, board members unanimously revoked the man’s provisional license, stating that until a physician cleared him for work, his health could be a risk for passengers.

The board then decided to review the process of granting provisional licenses based on applications the board has not reviewed.

Board members will also discuss part of the city’s code that allows for a 10-day grace period after a taxicab driver’s license is expired, giving them extra time to have licenses renewed without penalty.

Board President Sharon Peters said she would like to see the code changed to state that drivers are responsible for renewing their licenses before they expire and asked Sorgen to prepare a list of when each driver’s license expires so they can be tracked.

Sorgen tracks more than 100 drivers for 11 taxicab companies.

The board also voted to reinstate the taxicab license for driver Otis Reed after revoking his license in May after criminal charges were filed against him.

Reed was charged earlier this year with felony intimidation, criminal recklessness and domestic battery, according to Allen County court documents.

Reed had 30 days to request a hearing before the board and because he had not yet been convicted, the board voted to reinstate his license, Kiefer said. Reed and his attorney were granted a hearing and attended Monday’s meeting to hear the board’s decision.

“At this time, he has not been convicted,” Kiefer said, explaining the board’s decision to return Reed’s license. “The board was concerned that because the charges were of a violent nature, that for public safety reasons, they wanted to limit his exposure to the public. But under our current city ordinance, the board does not have the standing to do that.”

3 officers suspended

Also on Monday, the board heard that three police officers were suspended in June for three separate cases of insubordination or investigative negligence.

Officer Robert G. Abels was suspended for 45 days for insubordination, resulting from a case of improper conduct earlier this year, Police Chief Rusty York said.

Abels, a 23-year veteran of the department, was suspended in January for three days after he was reported by a supervisor for asking “inappropriate questions” while interviewing a victim of assault, York said.

“That would have been relatively minor, but then the officer took up a campaign to kind of demean the supervisor by filing a report alleging improper conduct on the supervisor’s behalf,” he said.

York said the June suspension was significant because any time an officer is suspended for 30 days or more, the officer is likely to be called before the board for a career-altering conversation.

“What we look at is a pattern and we keep a close eye on those things,” he said.

Crime scene technician Cinda S. Curtis was also suspended in June for three days for investigative negligence after she failed to follow protocol for taking photographs at a crime scene, York said.

Detective Barry T. Roos was suspended for one day for disobedience of orders and investigative negligence during a preliminary investigation he headed, York said.

jcrothers@jg.net

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