City Transportation Board Revokes License Of All American Taxi Company

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The City Transportation Board voted Thursday to revoke the license of All American Taxi after hearing testimony about fares being charged that are above the city maximum.

The panel also heard witnesses say that the company owned by Randy Van Hooser often put drivers to work who did not yet have their city permit.

Mr. Van Hooser said he made "an honest mistake" in raising the fares, saying he did so after the Transportation Board in May 2011 agreed to make that recommendation to the City Council. He said he never heard that the council did not act on the recommendation.

As a result, inspector Charles Topping said, All American has been charging $28.75 for a 10-minute ride that should cost $23.

Mr. Van Hooser said he did not get any of the extra money, saying it all went to his cab drivers.

Mike Shuford and Brent Matthews were the only ones voting against revoking the license.

Officer Topping noted that the taxi board earlier in 2011, at the request of Mr. Van Hooser, had agreed to raise the maximum fare for a 60-day period. Then it went back to the former rate.

The officer said after All American raised its fares in May 2011 that Mr. Van Hooser had posted hand-made signs in his cabs with the higher rates.

Officer Topping said the rate cards for all taxi companies are supposed to be supplied by the city.

On the issue of unlicensed drivers, Officer Topping said he now requires that the drivers themselves come in and pick up the permits - not the owners.

Officer Topping said he did not know why he did not catch the higher All American fares when he examined the firm's cabs in the annual inspection in February 2012. He said, "I don't know why I did not pick up on that." 

Among the witnesses were two former cab drivers for Mr. Van Hooser who had gone over to rival Tim Duckett, who owns Millenium Taxi and is also on the Transportation Board. Officer Topping said Mr. Duckett passed on several complaints about Mr. Van Hooser.

Manny Rico, City Council member who serves on the Transportation Board, said he did not buy Mr. Van Hooser's story that it was an honest mistake. He said, "Mr. Van Hooser is a businessman. He knows the rules. This isn't his first rodeo."

He added, "This is very serious. He's taken advantage of our poorest people. And he took advantage of our tourists. A taxi driver is often the first people they see."

James Hurst, attorney for All American Taxi, quoted Mr. Duckett as once saying that when taxi drivers raise the price, they actually lose business because word gets around.

Mr. Matthews asked, "If he (Van Hooser) thought the rate went up, why didn't he go to the office (of the inspector) and get a new rate card?"

Attorney Hurst acknowledged, "That's a good point."

He said, "The facts are what they are." 


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