A local taxi company owner asked city officials Monday night for stricter guidelines when licensing taxicabs and made accusations about another taxi business operating in Washington.
Ralph “Charlie” Bullington, owner of Yo Taxi Cab Company, spoke during the citizens discussion part of the Washington City Council meeting.
Bullington said he has been complaining for several years about a certain company that he later identified as Millennium Taxi, owned by Dennis Maeser.
“A lot of companies are running around illegal here and I have to fight twice as hard,” Bullington said. “It’s crazy what’s going on out here.”
He said his concerns are not about competition.
Maeser talked to The Missourian Tuesday about the allegations, saying there is no truth to Bullington’s claim and alleged that Bullington has been badmouthing and slandering Maeser for years.
Maeser said he learned about the meeting from his aunt, who spoke to Councilman Steve Sullentrup Tuesday. Maeser’s aunt used to own the company and she purchased the business from Sullentrup, Maeser said.
Both Maeser and Bullington each said the other’s company should be shut down and made several accusations of each other’s drivers for alleged violations.
Maeser said the only solution he can think of is that Bullington should stay in his area near Pacific and out of Washington. Maeser said his company has been in Washington longer.
Both Bullington and Maeser said they have contacted the city about each other’s businesses. Bullington described his most recent letter sent in December to the city as “semi-threatening to get (his) point across.”
More Should Be Done
Bullington told council members that since there are only a few cab companies for the city to watch in this area, it shouldn’t be difficult for the city to, for example, properly check insurance information provided to them.
Sullentrup suggested Bullington talk to City Clerk Brenda Mitchell and Police Chief Ken Hahn.
“I have and they turned their back on me,” Bullington responded. “I don’t understand why I keep getting brushed off.”
Hahn, who attended the meeting, said he has never met with Bullington before.
Sullentrup pointed out that officers cannot pull a cab driver over for no reason.
Mitchell, who also was present, said her office complies with the city ordinance when conducting the licensing process.
“Everything in the ordinance, we are doing for all taxi drivers,” said Mitchell, adding that taxi companies must show proof of insurance each time a license is issued or renewed.
Maeser told The Missourian he believes the city does enough now in the licensing process.
He added that his business, while smaller than most cab companies in St. Louis, are held to the same insurance standards as those taxi businesses.
Bullington told the council the city should be conducting background checks, drug exams, checking driving records and confirming that no false insurance paperwork is being submitted.
Bullington also made claims of price gouging, which Mitchell said is not the responsibility of the city to look into.
Councilman Jeff Mohesky agreed, saying, “It’s not the job of the city to watch every business in Washington.”
Counselor Weighs In
City Counselor Mark Piontek, who read the ordinance regarding taxicab licenses to himself during the meeting, told Bullington to send him a list of complaints and recommendations that he would consider to add to the ordinance.
Piontek said he would then confer with Hahn and Mitchell and come back with a response.
Bullington said he met with Piontek in his office before about this topic, but Piontek said he didn’t remember.
“We can argue about history or we can try to move forward,” Piontek said.
When Bullington started to talk again, Piontek interrupted him and said, “I don’t know what else you want to do but stand up here and complain. I looked at the rules and didn’t see anything that you were talking about. I’ve offered you suggestions. Either do it or don’t. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Sullentrup agreed, adding, “He’s made his recommendation. We’ve talked about it enough.”