The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency and the third-largest cab company in San Francisco have found themselves wrapped up in a series of allegations of a breach of ethics by both parties.
Arrow Checker, the cab company in question, has been investigated for the past three years for allegedly ripping off cabbies and disregarding the needs of disabled customers.
The company’s owner, Gratchia Makarian, says the SFMTA was unjust in its probe, accusing it of targeting the business over its Russian-speaking owners.
Makarian said in his lawsuit against The City that officials accused Arrow Checker’s owners of being involved in the Russian mafia, defaming the company as a result:
“It is an extremely stupid allegation because I am Armenian. I have never been involved in any crime related to the organized crime. I have a clean record.”
The transit agency declined to comment due to the lawsuit.
Former taxicab commission executive director Jordanna Thigpen said she never recalled making such a statement. However, she asserted that many others have.
Thigpen said that the Russian mafia accusations were not the reason for the investigation, but rather loads of problems with Arrow Checker’s management that the SFMTA received numerous complaints about.
The complaints range from rude service to drivers being overcharged by company management.
San Francisco has ample laws that taxi companies must follow, but many in the business say the rules go overlooked and not enforced.
Arrow Checker has been accused of charging drivers more than the allowable $100 fee per shift. The SFMTA accused Arrow Checker of the same violation in 2010.
Companies are now allowed to charge a 5 percent fee when cashing out credit card charges to drivers, but Arrow Checker was accused of levying before it was permitted.
The SFMTA alleges that Arrow Checker forced drivers to use the services of “The Russian Lady” to cash out nightly. The woman operates out of a trailer on the Arrow Checker lot and charges a 10 percent fee for her services, according to cab drivers.
Last year, the SFMTA levied a whopping $16.2 million fine against Arrow Checker for these violations. In their lawsuit, Arrow Checker said they agreed to pay about $6,000 to settle the matter.
The SFMTA also alleged that Arrow Checker also did not comply with the needs of disabled passengers and sent letters to several drivers about it in 2011.
Makarian said that The City cannot prove these allegations and that rules are being selectively enforced. He claims he is not affiliated with the “Russian Lady.”