Officials in 'crunch time' on decision over airport taxi contrac - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Officials in 'crunch time' on decision over airport taxi contract

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Officials have three weeks to decide whether they will change a controversial taxi cab contract at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The contract was awarded to three companies in 2010 and came under fire after it was alleged the former mayor was running a "pay-to-play" scheme.

"It's very disheartening that this cloud of suspicion has been cast over this contract," said Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle.

Right now, only three charlotte cab companies - Yellow Cab, City Cab and Crown Cab - can claim they are official airport taxis. However, the rest of the Queen City's cab owners say that title is tainted.

"It's time to fix it," said Obaid Kahn during the public comment portion of Monday night's city council meeting.

After an F.B.I. investigation into corruption by former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon, cab companies started lining up to add to Cannon's baggage.

Two taxi company owners told WBTV the were approached by Cannon's people in 2010. They allege these people asked for $10,000 to get them a spot at the airport before cab service was regulated.

The owner of Royal Cab claims he was asked for money by someone in Cannon's camp as a part of a "pay-to-play" scheme. 

"I got nervous," he told WBTV. "I called an attorney and he says don't do it, that's illegal."

The allegations that Cannon played a part in the "pay-to-play" scheme are still just that, allegations.

Cagle says he wasn't around when the initial cutback from 12 cab companies at the airport took place. 

He has, however, looked at all the paperwork and said he didn't find anything incriminating of the former mayor.

"From everything I can tell I don't see any evidence of that," said Cagle. "But clearly in light of the former mayor and the current circumstances it certainly raises some concerns."

And now Cagle is feeling the turbulence. 

"It is crunch time," said Cagle, referring to deciding on what to do about the contract issue for the next year.

Cagle says the controversial airport contract is set to expire on June 17. The Interim Aviation Director said if they decide to renew the contract to the three existing airport taxi companies they have to give them 60 days notice.

That means Cagle and city officials have to decide what route to take in three weeks time.

"It's always our intention to have a process that is fair and objective," said Cagle.

The Interim Director said they are looking over three options.

The first option, they can extend the current contract for another year.

Another option is to completely drop the contract and return to unregulated taxi service. 

"That option I do not favor," said Cagle. "I think the regulated environment is necessary to ensure a high customer service."

The final option under discussion is to extend the current contract for six months while opening up a new bidding process.

Although none of the three options are set in stone, Obaid Kahn, owner Diamond Cab, said could get behind an option that would give his company a chance to get back into the airport.

"We haven't been treated fairly," said Kahn. "We need some answers. We're on the verge of shutting down."

We've got to be mindful of the federal investigation going on

The cab company owners boxed out of the airport deal have requested a meeting with Charlotte's city council to better understand the situation and voice their growing concerns.

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