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Orange County

Airport Cab Firm Gets New Deal; Rivals Object

Transit: Competitors wanted to bid, but county supervisors extend the 21/2-year pact on the basis of a staff recommendation.

June 05, 2002|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A lucrative contract for taxi service at John Wayne Airport will go to the company doing the job now, despite objections from competitors who said there should have been a bidding process.

"The taxi selection process for the airport should be opened to all cab companies, and the county shouldn't be allowing a monopoly to exist," said Coast Cab spokesman Mike Vali, who joined other cab companies urging county supervisors to delay Tuesday's decision.

Supervisors unanimously approved the county staff's recommendation to extend an exclusive contract for 2 1/2 years to John Wayne Airport Yellow Cab Service, comprising Yellow Cab of Northern Orange County Inc., Fiesta Taxi in Gardena and California Yellow Cab in Santa Ana.

The issue of airport cab service has been a thorny one in recent years. In March 2000, airport administrators replaced contract holder A Taxi of Santa Ana after the firm failed to provide proper insurance. The company sued the county, seeking to be reinstated. That case is pending.

Airport administrators then selected a newly formed company, American Livery, which operated as American Taxi. It declared bankruptcy a year later, owing Ford Motor Credit Co. $3.3 million for its fleet of 140 cabs. On Nov. 28 last year, Ford repossessed the vehicles.

To ensure continuation of service, the airport board gave director Alan L. Murphy the authority to sign a contract with John Wayne Airport Yellow Cab Service, hastily formed with about 50 cabs from the three companies.

Murphy said Tuesday that the company was awarded the contract because airport passengers have expressed satisfaction with the cabs and service. The contract fills the term of the American Livery pact.

Brian J. McCormack, attorney for A Taxi of Santa Ana, said before the board Tuesday that the company lost the contract because of a "minor insurance problem" and should have been considered. The contract was worth about $5 million a year in gross receipts.

He also said the board had assured A Taxi that the company would be notified when a new contract was up for consideration, and that was not done.

After the board's decision Tuesday, Murphy cited the lawsuit as one reason A Taxi was bypassed.

"They are in litigation with the county basically because they did not meet insurance requirements," Murphy said. "Staff did not feel it was appropriate that A Taxi should be selected."

He also said the insurance problem was not minor. "It was a major, major, major issue for us because of the liability for the airport and risk to our passengers," Murphy said.

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