Judge: Germantown Cab settlement with PPA not about public safety [updated]

 Amid a lengthy dispute with the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Germantown Cab Co. paid off a pair of outstanding fines totaling nearly $10,000. (NewsWorks, file art)

Amid a lengthy dispute with the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Germantown Cab Co. paid off a pair of outstanding fines totaling nearly $10,000. (NewsWorks, file art)

A months-long dispute between the Philadelphia Parking Authority and a cab company based in Northwest Philadelphia ended last week before a Common Pleas Court judge.

On Wednesday, lawyers representing the PPA and the Germantown Cab Company finalized an agreement outlined after Germantown’s taxi operation was temporarily shut down in early August.

At issue

For three days beginning Aug. 8, Germantown Cab Company — a 170-car fleet — was ordered out-of-service for failing to file what’s known as a “PR-1 form” for fiscal year 2015, according to company representatives.

The mandatory registration document must be submitted each year by partial-rights cab companies, which are operations that can only take fares in specific geographic areas.

Germantown Cab operates exclusively in Northwest Philadelphia and parts of the suburbs. Its drivers cannot, for example, pick up people in Center City, only drop them off there.

As of a Wednesday status hearing, Germantown Cab had submitted the 2015 PR-1 for review and, as of Friday, paid off a pair of outstanding fines totaling nearly $10,000. (Germantown owed PPA’s Taxi and Limousine Department $8,825.)

The company agreed to pay the agency’s Bureau of Administrative Adjudication $1,000 for outstanding parking tickets and to cover storage fees for a seized vehicle.

Public-safety conflict

Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, PPA claimed that Germantown was shut down, in part, because it failed to provide criminal background checks for all of its drivers.

But that was not so, maintained an attorney representing the company.

“I’m satisfied that the court recognized that this had nothing to do with public safety,” said attorney Zachary L. Grayson. “We are dissatisfied that we were unlawfully put out of service.”

Grayson had repeatedly stated that, per the PR-1, background checks were only needed for Germantown’s management team and that those were provided to PPA.

The Public Utility Commission, he added, had inspected Germantown’s driver records, as it had for years.

Details from the hearing

On Wednesday, Common Pleas Court Judge Sheldon C. Jelin, who presided over the matter, acknowledged that the settlement agreement had nothing to do with public safety, according to court records obtained by NewsWorks.

Instead, it was essentially a dispute over paperwork and fines.

(Update

The PPA responded on Tuesday that Grayson’s was an inaccurate representation of Wednesday’s hearing, and that settlement agreement “definitely” has to do with public safety.

“All of the fundamental information about the company to properly regulate them starts with that form,” said Dennis Weldon, PPA’s general counsel. “If you can’t provide the form, we can’t do the investigation [of drivers].”)

Germantown Cab’s 2014 PR-1 was submitted in late March, according to Grayson. The form for 2015 was due April 1.

As a result, Grayson said Germantown Cab requested — via letter — that the PPA use the info on the 2014 form for the 2015 as well.

Grayson maintains that the PPA took a long time to respond to the letter.

It took so long, he said, that when they finally did, they reportedly said the backgrounds checks on the PR-1 were “stale” and proceeded to issue a citation.

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