December 5, 2001
I wish to notify you that I intend to file suit imminently against Commissioners and Employees of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission including present and former commissioners Diane McGrath-McKechnie, Elias Arout, Harry Giannoulis, Marvin Greenberg, Harry Rubinstein, Elliott G. Sander, Alberto Torres, Ramona M. Whaley and Matthew W. Daus, Deputy Commissioner Charles Tortorici, Administrative Law Judges Michelle Manzione, Bin Huang and Valerie Greaves, and employees Roger Morgan and Cici Pulyam plus an employee of the Port of Authority of New York, Building 14, named Robin last name unknown.
The basis for this lawsuit is that for the past more than six months since May 25, 2001, I have been harassed, menaced and threatened by the above named employees of the TLC and I have not been allowed to work as a taxi driver because of these acts of threatening, menacing and harassing me. Moreover, what has happened to me is not unique or unusual. There are more than 50,000 present and former New York City Taxi Drivers and all or almost all of them have been subjected to the same wrongful conduct. The Taxi and Limousine Commission has become notorious as a corrupt agency. The Commissioners of the TLC Certainly know about this because at every meeting of the TLC complaints are heard about this and yet no action is ever taken to correct this pervasive wrongdoing.
In the course of their activities, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has stolen has stolen millions of dollars from the long suffering taxi drivers, almost all of whom are immigrants who lack the resources and the capability of fighting these illegal fines and many of whom do not even earn the minimum wage.
This is not just my opinion. This opinion has been expressed by The New York Times and other prestigious newspapers. See for example, "NYC Cabbies: Reckless Menaces or Exploited Victims?", The New York Times, May 15, 1998. This article was published at the time that Mayor Giuliani declared his "War on Taxi Drivers". Mayor Giuliani said that any driver who protested his policies would have his medallion revoked.
The pervasive pattern of criminal theft on the part of the Commissioners and Employees of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission compels me to sue the commissioners personally and not just the agency. Here in brief are the facts of my case:
First, although I was a taxi driver for two years from November 1, 1997 to October 31, 1999, I have a clean driving record. I have never been involved in an accident. I have never had a customer complaint of any kind. I have no points on my license. In short, I have an exemplary record.
In mid-October, 1999, I went to Japan where I visited my girlfriend, Kayo Kimura. I returned in December, 1999. When I went to the TLC Office in Long Island City to file an application to renew my license, I was told that, in my absence, the TLC Rules had changed. Instead of being given six months to renew, I only had one month. Because I returned in the middle of December and my license had expired on October 31, 1999, one month had passed and my license could not be renewed.
Since that time, the courts of New York State have ruled that the acts of the TLC in changing the renewal grace period from six months to one month was done without notice, without a hearing and without a showing that this change was in the public interest and therefore the rule change is void. See Singh vs. TLC, 723 NYS2d 476, 282 AD2d 368 (First Department 2001), decided April 28, 2000 and affirmed by the Appellate Division, First Department April 24, 2001. Appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals.
Nevertheless, in spite of this clear and obviously correct ruling by the highest courts of New York State that the actions of the TLC were illegal, the TLC is still enforcing the one month requirement and taxi drivers are being required to file suit repeatedly to receive the rights afforded to them by law. Only a few days ago, the TLC lost another one of those cases in Khan vs. TLC, 114557/2001, decided Nov. 5, 2001. The fact that the TLC continues to ignore the rulings of the highest courts of New York State and effectively requires present and former taxi drivers to file lawsuits to obtain the rights afforded to them by law is a reason why the Taxi and Limousine Commissioners should be held personally liable for their misconduct in ignoring the law.
Of course, most taxi drivers do not even know about the decision in Singh vs. TLC, 28585/1999, and even if they do they cannot afford to spend the two thousand dollars it takes to retain counsel and file a case, so they simply leave the industry. Because of this and because of the overwhelming fines and unfair hearings before the TLC, more than 10,000 taxi drivers have lost their licenses in the past year and many taxi companies have gone bankrupt for lack of drivers to drive their cabs, thereby causing great hardship to the already long suffering people of New York City who cannot get a cab.
In my case, the decision in Singh vs. TLC, 723 NYS2d 476, 282 AD2d 368 (First Department 2001), did not come down until more than six months after my license had expired and indeed I did not even learn of that decision until recently, so on April 27, 2001 I applied for a new license, which meant that I had to start from scratch. I paid $500 in fees. I completed the 80 hour course and passed the drug tests, the physical examination and the written test with a very high score of 92% and was waiting for my license to arrive in the mail. Several days after my license did not come when it was supposed to arrive, I called Miss Cici Pulyam of the TLC who told me that she had "found an old summons at JFK Airport". Had I known about this summons before paying the $500 and taking the 80 hour course, I could have done something about it or else abandoned my plans to become a taxi driver.
However, this summons was obviously invalid or was not meant for me, because the license number on the summons was 5061483, and my license number was 496476. Moreover, that summons had been issued by mail and had not been sent to my address of record but to another address. Even the letter "H" was omitted from my name. The ticket was for Samuel Sloan, but I am Samuel H. Sloan. Finally, at the time the summons was issued by mail, I was in Istanbul Turkey for the World Chess Olympiad and therefore would not have known about it even if it had been mailed to my correct address.
Since the summons was obviously invalid on its face, I thought that it was a routine matter to file a motion to vacate. I felt that I should not have been required to file a motion to vacate because the summons was obviously not intended for me and by filing a motion to vacate that implied that it was for me. I argued this point with Roger Morgan at the Licensing Division of the TLC but he was adamant that he would not issue a TLC license while this summons was outstanding, even though it was not for my license number. I argued for a while and getting nowhere filed a motion to vacate.
I was not afforded a hearing on my motion. Instead, the same day that I fled my motion at Building 14 at JFK Airport, Administrative Law Judge Michelle Manzione denied my motion with the incredible statement that 5061483 was my license number. This was simply a lie because, not only was 5061483 not my license number, but it was not even a TLC license number at all. Nobody had that license number.
It has been explained to me that the reason ALJ Manzione made this error was that she was a new judge and was not familiar with the practices of the TLC. She did not know that the TLC sometimes puts a case number in the box which was originally intended for license number. However, the reason I say that this was a lie and not just a simple error is that she implied in her decision that she had looked in my file, had seen my license application under that number and that the application provided the address to which the summons had been sent. However, there is no such file. The file does not exist because that license number itself does not exist. Therefore, the statement by Michelle Manzione was just a lie and nothing more or less than that.
I can prove that the statement of Michelle Manzione was not merely a mistake but a lie and indeed was just the beginning of a tissue of lies told by Michelle Manzione which have had the effect of preventing me from working as a taxi driver for the past six months.
Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a document I recently obtained from the Taxi and Limousine Commission which lists all the license numbers which I have ever had. There are three numbers on the list: 496476, 5081212, and 5093353. As you can plainly see, 5061483 is not a number on the list. However, Michelle Manzione wrote in her decision: "According to TLC records, he filed an application & was assigned TLC license # 5061483."
This is a complete lie. There are no such TLC Records. No such thing exists. In fact, Charles Tortorici, Deputy Commissioner, Licensing Division, told me on November 2, 2001 that there is no file number 5061483 at all. No such file exists. Mr. Tortorici should know, because he is the keeper of the files.
I asked Mr. Tortorici that since he knows this and obviously has known this all along, why does he not simply pick up the phone and call ALJ Michelle Manzione and inform her that she has made a terrible mistake which should be corrected. Mr. Tortorci gave a muddled answer, something about the bureaucracy of the TLC and the attack on the World Trade Center. However, that is no excuse because this situation has been going on since May, 2001, long before the World Trade Center was attacked.
Attached as Exhibit B is the decision of ALJ Michelle Manzione which can readily be seen to be filled with lies. The important point is that she wrote this while in Building 14 of JFK Airport. There are no files there. She probably assumed that there was a file number 5061483 and did not bother to inquire. This is clearly misconduct. Has anybody ever heard of a judge who decided a case without hearing evidence and without looking at the file and then refused to change it even though it was demonstrably wrong?
Not only did ALJ Michelle Manzione refuse to correct her obvious errors but she started an investigation of me. Soon, I was receiving calls from Special Investigator Tim Crowe of the NYC Inspector General's Office of Fire, Taxi and Consumer Affairs. The result of this investigation, which went on for about a week, was that Investigator Tim Crowe decided that I had done nothing wrong. He even told me that I should stick to my guns.
However, ALJ Michelle Manzione continued to attack me.
The same day I found out that ALJ Michelle Manzione had denied my motion to vacate, I prepared a petition for rehearing in the mistaken belief that once she realized that she made an obvious error she would correct it. My petition for rehearing is annexed as Exhibit D. I took it to Building 14 at JFK Airport. A window clerk named Robin at the airport who had been baiting me all week refused to accept it. I pushed it through the window and she pushed it back at me. I pushed it through again and she threw it on the floor. Then, she called the security guard.
Meanwhile, I discovered that the decision by Michelle Manzione refusing to vacate the $280 fine against me had not been entered. It is impossible to appeal from a decision that has not been entered. Also, if I paid the fine before the decision was entered I would lose the right to appeal.
I went to Building 14 at JFK Airport every day from June 1 to June 8 2001 except for one day. Each time, this person named Robin was sitting at the window. She was surly, nasty and abusive, refusing to help me and constantly giving me wrong or incorrect information. I did not realize at the time but later found out that she was not a TLC Employee at all. She is an employee of the Port Authority of New York. This explains why she did not know TLC Rules and Procedures and always gave me the wrong information. Yet, there was a sign on the door saying "New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission". I wonder why with such a sign of the door there was nobody inside who was an employee of the TLC and who knew the procedures of the TLC.
Every day between June 1 and June 8, 2001 I went back and forth between the TLC in Long Island City and Building 14 at JFK Airport. Every day, the TLC in Long Island City told me one thing whereas Robin at JFK Airport told me the opposite. There was nothing I could do but constantly go back and forth between those two places, because the TLC in Long Island City refused to issue me the taxi license which I had spent all that time and money to get, until the problems being created by Robin at JFK Airport were resolved.
Finally, I was able to get the order entered and I paid the ticket of $280. This ticket was obviously illegal because it was not my ticket because license number 5061483 was not my license number. In effect, I was being required to pay somebody else's ticket.
This business of being required to pay somebody else's ticket is not unique to me. All you have to do is go any day to the TLC office in Long Island City and you will find a room full of taxi drivers making the same complaint, that they are being required to pay tickets which are not theirs. Otherwise, they cannot continue to drive. This is all part of the criminal scheme by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to extort millions of dollars out of taxi drivers.
On June 8, 2001, after being required to wait several hours, I finally was allowed to pay the fine of $280 cash and was given a clearance certificate at JFK Airport. I then went to the TLC in Long Island City and presented this clearance certificate. However Roger Morgan, a supervisor of the Licensing Division refused, to issue my license because he said that he had received a phone call from Robin complaining about my behavior at JFK Airport. Robin is the surly, nasty and abusive employee at JFK Airport who I have since been informed is notorious for getting into fights with taxi drivers and has been responsible for many drivers loosing their licenses.
I eventually received a notice of a hearing set for June 26, 2001. The charge set forth in the notice was "Disorderly Conduct at JFK Airport". I retained counsel, Michael Spevack, and went to the hearing. However, at the hearing which was held before ALJ Valerie Greaves, no mention was ever made of disorderly conduct or any kind of conduct whatever at JKF Airport. There were no witnesses except that my girlfriend and I testified. No charges were set forth. There was no evidence of any kind presented. There was no prosecutor of the case.
The so-called hearing consisted of ALJ Greaves reading the petition for a rehearing which I had attempted to file with Robin at JFK Airport and which I had subsequently mailed both to building 14 at JFK Airport and to the official address of record of AJL Manzione. ALJ Greaves was especially incensed at the statement in my petition for a rehearing which said, "You have stolen millions of dollars from the long suffering taxi drivers, almost all of whom are immigrants who lack the resources and the capability of fighting these illegal fines and many of whom do not even earn the minimum wage." ALJ Greaves kept asking me what I meant by that statement.
I explained to ALJ Greaves that what I meant by that statement was that she had stolen millions of dollars from New York City Taxi Drivers and if she did not like that statement, the simple solution was that she should stop stealing money from New York City Taxi Drivers.
I never received and to this day have not received the decision of ALJ Greaves. For the next two months, I called repeatedly and asked for the decision. Finally, Ms. CiCi Pulyam told me that the decision had been sent to the wrong address.
Attached hereto as Exhibit E is a change of address form. Note that at the bottom it is signed by Roger Morgan and dated June 26, 2001. Now, look at the letter dated July 19, 2001 which is marked Exhibit F. Note that this letter is also signed by Roger Morgan, the same person. Now, notice that the letter marked Exhibit F is sent to the wrong address and not to the address noted on Exhibit E.
The fact is that the TLC does this all the time. This was not caused by a delay in entering the new address into their computer. My correct address was in the computer. This is due to the laziness and indifference of the entire TLC staff. Roger Morgan simply did not bother to look into his computer and get my correct address, just as whomever issued the original summons by mail which started this entire problem did not bother to check with either TLC Records or DMV records for my correct address and instead sent the ticket to a wrong address, thereby starting this entire problem.
The letter was finally retyped and sent to the correct address. The corrected letter was signed by Mr. Singh and was dated August 15, 2001. It is marked Exhibit G. However, I lost one month because the original notice had not been mailed to my address of record.
As soon as I received this in the mail, I contacted Ms. Desiree Blackwood of the TLC in Long Island City. In our conversation, Ms. Blackwood refereed to a decision by ALJ Greaves. I told her that I had never seen any such decision. She told me that I was not allowed to see the decision because it was "confidential". She also referred to complaints made by ALJ Manzione and by Robin at the airport. I told her that this wax the first time I had ever heard that there were any such written complaints. She said that those complaints too were confidential. I also asked her for a transcript of the hearing. She said that this was also confidential. In short, the hearing had been held on two complaints which I had never seen and had never been informed even existed and a decision had been rendered which I was also not allowed to see. I tried to explain to Ms. Blackwood that this is known as a Star Chamber proceeding.
She told me that she would arrange an appointment to meet Charles Tortorici, Deputy Commissioner of the Licensing Division, but that this would have to wait until Mr. Tortorici returned from vacation. Unfortunately, right after Mr. Tortorici returned from vacation, an airplane hit the World Trade Center. On September 13, 2001, I happened to see Ms. Blackwood and Mr. Tortorici in front of the TLC Office in Long Island City. Mr. Tortorci aid that he could not speak to me right now because of a "big emergency that was going on.
On September 7, 2001 I had applied for a TLC FHV License. I paid the $120 fee. This time, the license was granted.
However, I then received a letter dated October 19, 2001. This letter stated that I had failed to truthfully answer question 18 on my license application and therefore my license was suspended. This was not true. Question 18 asks whether my license has ever been revoked or suspended. I answered truthfully that it had not been. Apparently, they still think that 5061483 was my license number. This is the number that does not exist.
I am informed that the letter dated October 19, 2001 suspending my license was illegal because it did not set a date for a hearing.
Finally, Charles Tortorici agreed to meet with me on November 2, 2001. I had a meeting with him lasting about one hour. I felt that it was a productive meeting and that he understood the situation. Prior to the meeting, I had written him a letter dated October 26, 2001 which I had hand delivered to his office. It became apparent during this meeting that he had not read the letter. Also, although he claimed to have reviewed my case, it was obvious that he knew nothing about it. He did not even know for example that this entire matter had started over a summons issued to license number 5061483, when in reality there is no such license number. He typed that number into his computer and agreed and acknowledged that there was no such number and he agreed that the TLC appeared to have been mistaken when they wrote me a letter suspending my license. Mr. Tortorici told me that it seemed clear that the Legal Department of the TLC was wrong on a number of points. However, while admitting that the Legal Department had made mistakes and done things wrong, he refused to admit that his own department had dome anything wrong.
The meeting concluded with Mr. Tortorici saying that he would call the Legal Department of the TLC and have them call me and arrange an appointment where we could meet and discuss and settle these problems. Mr. Tortorici also said that he would have them schedule a hearing on the letter dated October 19, suspending my FHV License. Also, I was demanding to see a copy of the decision of ALJ Greaves which I still was not being allowed to see. Mr. Tortorici told me to wrote him a letter making a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain these documents.
I wrote and delivered the letter on Monday, November 5, 2001. Then I sat by the phone waiting for the Legal Department to call. I could not call them because the attack on the World Trade Center had left all but one of their phones out of order. They never called.
Meanwhile, I persistently called the TLC at 40 Rector Street. The problem is that in view of the attack on the World Trade Center, only one of their phones is working. Finally, three weeks after my meeting with Mr. Tortorici, I called when Jeanmarie Ariola just happened to be walking by the main desk. When I spoke to her, she knew my name immediately. However, she was very surprised when I told her that I had had a meeting with Charles Tortorici three weeks earlier. She said that Mr. Tortorici had never told them about any such meeting. She said that she would go look at my file and call me back the following day. She never called back, either.
What is apparent is that the TLC keeps making promises which are never kept. They promise to call but never call. I write letters but my letters are never read. Hearings are hold but I am not allowed to know what the charges are or what the evidence is. I am not even allowed to see the decision in my case. I file Freedom of Information Act requests, but they are denied. Meanwhile, I have not been allowed to work for more than six months. I have a new baby which was born on November 11. I am the sole support for my family.
I sincerely believe that the Commissioners of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission need long prison sentences. I intend to work towards that goal.
Very Truly Yours,
Samuel H. Sloan