Originally created 03/07/03

Cab violations bring big fines for drivers



The grace period is officially over for Augusta taxicab drivers.

A crackdown begun by Sheriff Ronnie Strength in February culminated Thursday in fat fines for four cab drivers and the arrest of two others.

Most fines were for operating without a business license, but police cited one driver for having food on his jacket and another for having no rate card.

Franklin Clark, of VIP Taxi & Delivery Service, was stopped Feb. 14 near the Augusta Exchange movie theater on Agerton Lane after he picked up a passenger. A sheriff's deputy ticketed him for not having a business license, which is indicated by a sticker.

On Thursday, Magistrate Judge William D. Jennings III ordered him to pay $650 in fines.

The cab company, which is run by Mr. Clark and his wife, Bettielee, from their home, hadn't obtained enough insurance, Mrs. Clark said. The sheriff's office ordered them to get insurance specifically for taxicabs before they could get a license and sticker.

"I think they're being really harsh," she said. "We got everything cleared up before we got to court. They still gave us the fine."

Sheriff Strength met with cab companies in December and warned them he would punish those who violated city ordinances that call for licenses, rate cards and clean vehicles. He told drivers he was responding to repeated complaints from customers.

"People who come into the community are saying how deplorable the cabs are," he said.

Mandatory inspections were held in early February, and the sheriff subsequently ordered deputies to begin ticketing.

Five cab drivers appeared in magistrate's court Thursday morning to answer the charges. Four were found guilty and ordered to pay between $650 and $975 each.

A fifth, Wayne Fray, of Courtesy Coach, asked for a jury trial and was ordered to be detained until he can pay a $2,000 cash appearance bond. Judge Jennings said he considered Mr. Fray a flight risk.

The judge also ordered the arrest of a sixth cab driver who failed to appear in court.

Sheriff Strength said that most cab companies are cooperative and clean but that about 10 percent of cabs failed the February inspection.

The failing cabs had bald tires, defective lights and trash in the seats. One car had a hole in the side, allowing officers to see the driver's legs when he drove up.

"There were rate cards not even there, like they are saying, 'Just get in and we'll tell you how much you owe when you get there,"' Sheriff Strength said. "It's just a handful of companies we are having problems with. We will continue to monitor them."

CABBIE CRACKDOWN

Here's a breakdown of cab drivers who were cited and the outcomes of their cases:

  • DRIVER: Wayne Fray
  • CAB COMPANY: Courtesy Coach

    CHARGES: No business license, appearance violation

    OUTCOME: Mr. Fray demanded a jury trial, and the case was transferred to State Court. The judge called Mr. Fray a flight risk and ordered him held until he posted a $2,000 cash appearance bond.

  • DRIVER: Franklin Clark
  • CAB COMPANY: VIP Taxi & Delivery Service

    CHARGES: No business license

    OUTCOME: Mr. Clark was found guilty and fined $650.

  • DRIVER: Chanda Monique Daye
  • CAB COMPANY: Caribbean Cab

    CHARGES: No business license

    OUTCOME: Ms. Daye was found guilty, fined $975 and ordered to perform 20 hours of community service.

  • DRIVER: George A. Lyons
  • CAB COMPANY: Curtis Cab

    CHARGES: No business license

    OUTCOME: Mr. Lyons was found guilty and fined $975.

  • DRIVER: Charles Deloach
  • CAB COMPANY: Curtis Cab

    CHARGES: No business license

    OUTCOME: Mr. Deloach was found guilty and fined $680.

    Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.



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