For a Judgment Pursuant to
CPLR Article 78
TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, COUNTY OF NEW YORK:
Samuel H. Sloan, being duly sworn, deposes and says:
1. I am the petitioner herein. I reside at 39-75 56th Street, Apt. 5A, Woodside, NY 11377. I was a licensed New York City taxi driver from November 1, 1997 until October 31, 1999. Since December 1999, I have sought to renew my taxi driver's license and since May 25, 2001 I have attempted to obtain a new taxi driver's license. The above named respondents have refused to issue me a taxi driver's license, even though I have met every legal requirement to have one.
2. I am the sole support for my family. I have a newborn baby, born November 11, 2001. I also have seven other children. Only the three eldest are adults. My newborn baby is entirely dependant upon me for support. My other four children, who range in ages from 10 to 13 years old, are partially dependant upon me for support.
3. The respondents herein are all officials or agents of New York City plus the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. All of them are involved in the effort to deprive me of my right to a taxi driver's license. Among reasons why I am suing them personally and not just the agency is that what has happened to me has happened to thousands of other New York City taxi drivers. My case in not unique. Rather, my case is typical of what every or almost every taxi driver has gone through. If you do not believe me, all you have to do is hail any taxi on the street. The driver will gladly tell you a similar story, because every New York City Taxi Driver has had a similar experience. The details of every driver's story will be different, but the big picture is the same: The above named respondents are part of a gang of crooks and criminals who steal money from taxi drivers.
4. Another reason why I am suing them personally is that they have habitually ignored the rulings of the Highest Courts of New York State. In the case of Singh vs. TLC, 723 NYS2d 476, 282 AD2d 368 (First Department 2001), decided April 24, 2001, the Appellate Division held that the acts of the TLC in changing the taxi driver's renewal grace period from six months to one month was without notice, without a hearing and without a showing that this change was in the public interest and thereby violated Administrative Procedure Law and therefore the rule change is illegal, null and void. Appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. Nevertheless, the respondents herein have ignored that ruling and are still enforcing the one month renewal requirement. This demonstrates their contumacious refusal to comply with the law.
5. As a result, taxi drivers are being required to file suit repeatedly to receive the rights afforded to them by law. The TLC is engaging in dilatory motion practice to prevent these drivers from obtaining their rights. 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.
6. Just to explain the big picture before going into the details of my particular case, the New York City taxi industry is a billion dollar industry. There are 50,000 present and former Medallion Licensed New York City taxi drivers. However, because of the wrongful acts of the above named respondents, more than 10,000 of these drivers have lost their licenses within the past year. Almost all of these are immigrants who lack the capability of effectively fighting for their rights. There are 12,187 Medallion Taxis. However, thousands of them sit empty every day for lack of drivers to drive them. Elderly and disabled people who have no method of transportation other than by taxi cannot get a cab.
7. On October 2, 1997, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sold 400 newly created taxi medallions at auction at an average price of $258,000 each. I attended the auction. This cost the taxi drivers and owners $100 million. However, on May 15, 1998, Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared his infamous "War on Taxi Drivers". He threatened that any driver protesting his policies would have his medallion or license revoked. The result was an immediate drastic drop in the value of a taxi medallion. The market price for a medallion soon became "offered at $200,000, no bid". In effect, a taxi medallion became worthless, except that some drivers hung on to their medallions hoping that the next mayor would call off the war. Many drivers had mortgaged their homes to pay for their medallions. The result of the Mayor's War on Taxi Drivers was that many medallion owners lost both their medallions and their homes. The result was bankruptcies, broken families, fatherless children, poverty and destitution, plus the already long suffering People of New York City could not get a cab.
8. All of the above is a direct result of the criminal activities of the respondents to this petition. The enormous amount of money involved in the New York Taxi Industry has provided a clear motive and incentive to the above named respondents to steal money from taxi drivers. They have the power to regulate the taxi industry and to deprive drivers such as myself of their licenses. The Respondents are as follows:
9. Michelle Manzione is an Administrative Law Judge of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.
10. Charles Tortorici is the Deputy Commissioner, Licensing Division, of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.
11. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the Mayor of New York City.
12. Diane McGrath-McKechnie, Elias Arout, Harry Giannoulis, Marvin Greenberg, Harry Rubinstein, Elliott G. Sander, Alberto Torres, Ramona M. Whaley, and Matthew W. Daus, are all present or former Commissioners of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.
13. Matthew W. Daus is the new Chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission and was until recently the Deputy Commissioner, Legal Affairs/General Counsel of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
14. Bin K. Huang is a former Administrative Law Judge of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Valerie Greaves is a present Administrative Law Judge of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
15. Roger Morgan is a Supervisor in the Licensing Division of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Cici Pulyam is a worker in the Licensing Division of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
16. Jeanmarie Ariola is an Investigator in the Legal Department of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Marc T. Hardekopf is Assistant General Counsel of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
17. Respondent "Robin, an employee of the Port of Authority of New York, Building 14, last name unknown" is a window clerk at JFK Airport, Building 14. Although the sign on her door says "New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission", and she presents herself as an official of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, she does not really work for the Taxi and Limousine Commission and instead is employed by the Port Authority of New York. She is a surly, nasty and argumentative individual who in notorious for getting into arguments and actual physical fights with New York City taxi drivers.
18. Respondent New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is an agency of the City of New York.
19. I will now summarize the facts of my case. The details are lengthy both because I have made persistent efforts first to renew my New York City Taxi Driver's license or to obtain a new license and because the above named respondents have been just as persistent in their efforts to stop me for having a license. I have included as exhibits hereto correspondence I have exchanged with the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the respondents hereto, which fill in the details of my case and are incorporated by reference.
20. 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 driving record.
21. In October, 1999, I went to Japan on business. I also visited my girlfriend, Kayo Kimura. I returned on December 12, 1999. My license had expired on October 31, 1999, but the rule for decades had been that a driver had six months to renew. 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.
22. This change affected thousands of taxi drivers. The vast majority of New York City Taxi Drivers are from the Indian sub-continent, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, and from the Caribbean Islands, especially Haiti. Most of them went home to visit their families during the Winter months. When they returned, they found out that they had lost their taxi driver's license and their means of livelihood.
23. I believe that this was not an accident or a coincidence. I believe that the TLC made this rule change as part of a deliberate plan to get rid of these taxi drivers, who are from other countries, or to require them to pay enormous fees to get a new license. The present fees plus the courses and tests the drivers are required to take cost $600. Multiply this $600 times the thousands of drivers who lost their license in this way and it can be seen how much money was involved.
24. As noted previously, in the case of Singh vs. TLC, 723 NYS 2d 476, 282 AD 2d 368 (First Department 2001), decided April 24, 2001, the Appellate Division held that the acts of the TLC in changing the taxi driver's renewal grace period from six months to one month was without notice, without a hearing and without a showing that this change was in the public interest and therefore violated Administrative Procedure Act (NY City Charter §§ 1041-1046) and therefore the rule change is illegal, null and void. Appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. Nevertheless, the respondents herein have ignored that ruling and are still enforcing the one month renewal requirement. This demonstrates their contumacious refusal to comply with the law.
25. Not knowing about this ruling by the Appellate Division, which still to this day had not been announced by the TLC, on April 27, 2001 I applied for a new license, which meant that I had to start from scratch. I paid $500 in fees. (The fees have since been increased). 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. On June 1, 2001, which was 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.
26. I had never received a summons of any kind at JFK Airport. I went to the airport to find out what this was about. I met a window clerk named Robin who showed me a summons which supposedly had been sent to me by mail. However, the address was wrong plus the license number was wrong. The license number on the ticket was 5061483 whereas my license number was 496476. Also, my name was different. Instead of Samuel H. Sloan, the ticket had been issued to Samuel Sloan. While this might seem to be a minor difference, the TLC is notoriously particular about exactness in name. Also, I had been in Istanbul Turkey for the World Chess Olympiad at the time when this ticket had supposedly been sent by mail.
27. I had been found guilty by default by Administrative Law Judge Bin K. Huang. I had been fined $200 and four points on my license for failure to appear at the hearing and a total of $80 for no trip sheet and no taxi driver's license on display, for a total fine of $280 and four points on my license. However, this decision was clearly wrong. Had ALJ Bin K. Huang bothered to check his computer, he would have realized that the summons had not been sent to my address. My correct address was entered into the computer for both my DMV License and my TLC License. Obviously, neither the unknown person who issued me the license by mail nor ALJ Huang had bothered to check the computer to find out my correct address.
28. The date of alleged offense was the same date that I had driven to Parris Island South Carolina to see my daughter graduate from US Marines Boot Camp. I had never been to JFK Airport on that or any nearby date.
29. Roger Morgan, a Supervisor of the Licensing Division of the TLC at Long Island City Queens told me that he knew what had happened. What had happened is that sometimes when issuing a ticket a case number is put in the same box that was originally intended for the license number. Therefore, the number 5061483 was not a license number at all and nobody had that number. Roger Morgan told me that he knew that this was not my license number. He said that nevertheless he would not issue me a new license until I had cleared this summons.
30. Since I had already spent more than $500 plus taken an 80 hour two week course to get my license, I had no choice but to proceed forward. Had I known about this before paying the $500, I might have decided not to bother to try to obtain a taxi driver's license.
31. Every day from June 1 through June 8, 2001 with the exception of one day, I went back and forth between the TLC in Long Island City and Robin at Hanger 14 in JFK Airport. Every time I went to the TLC in Long Island City, they told me that this case had nothing to do with them and go to JFK Airport. Every time I went to JFK Airport, Robin yelled at me that I was not supposed to come there but to deal with this problem in Long Island City. I eventually figured out that what the TLC in Long Island City was saying about this ticket was correct and that Robin did not know what she was talking about. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to deal with her if I wanted to get my taxi driver's license.
32. I filed a motion to vacate a copy of which is annexed hereto as Exhibit B. I was denied a hearing. I was never allowed to see the judge and to this day do not know what she looks like. Fantastically, her decision was that 5061483 was my correct license number. It has since been explained to me that ALJ Michelle Manzione was a new judge, lacking in experience, and she did not realize that the TLC often puts a case number in the box originally intended for the license number. However, the decision by ALJ Manzione contained a number of lies which went beyond the realm of simple mistakes. For example, she said that I had been sent the summons by certified mail. Not only was this not true but the TLC never sends anybody a summons by certified mail. Also, the record itself says that it was sent by regular mail. Similarly, ALJ Manzione implied that she had reviewed my file, whereas in reality there was no such file.
33. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to pay the $280 fine if I wanted to work and support my family. Finally, after more problems with Robin, some of which are described in the accompanying exhibits, I was allowed to pay the $280 at JFK Airport and was given a clearance certificate. I took this to Roger Morgan at the TLC. However, he told me that he had received a phone call, obviously from Robin at JFK Airport, and I could not have my license until a hearing could be had on this matter.
34. I then filed an appeal from the decision of ALJ Manzione. I was advised by other taxi drivers not to file an appeal because an appeal will just make them angry and appeals are never successful. Nevertheless, I did file an appeal. To this date, more than five months after filing this appeal, I have not received a decision or even a receipt acknowledgment.
35. I also filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the file number 5061483. I obviously needed this file to prove that this was not my license number. Nevertheless, my FOIL request was denied with a statement that "The disclosure of the aforementioned information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." A copy of this decision is annexed hereto as an exhibit.
36. On June 26, 2001, a hearing was held before ALJ Valerie Greaves. The notice of the hearing said that the hearing would be about "disorderly conduct at JFK Airport". However, that subject was never raised at the hearing. Also, there was no prosecutor, no statement of charges, no evidence and no witnesses except for myself and my girlfriend, Kayo Kimura. I was given no notice whatever of what the hearing was about. I had counsel who represented me at the hearing. He told me that he had never experienced a hearing like this before. In summation, he told ALJ Greaves that I had not done anything wrong and had not even been accused of anything.
37. I never received and still to this day have not received the decision of ALJ Greaves. I have no idea of what it contains. However, I received a letter dated August 15, 2001 that my application for a taxi driver's license had been denied. The letter stated that a "license to you would create an unreasonable risk to the public". In August, 2001, I met with Assistant Commissioner Desiree Blackwood. She told me that this decision had been based on letters submitted by Michelle Manzione and Robin at JFK Airport. I demanded to see copies of these letters. She told me that this was not allowed, because these letters were confidential. I also demanded to see the decision of ALJ Greaves. Assistant Commissioner Blackwood said that I could not see that either because this was also confidential. During the discussion, she referred to a transcript. I demanded to see a copy of this transcript. She said that I could not see that either, because that too is confidential.
38. However, Assistant Commissioner Blackwood told me that she would arrange a meeting with Charles Tortorici, Deputy Commissioner of Licensing. However, since Mr. Tortorici was away on vacation, that would have to wait until he returned.
39. On September 7, 2001, following advice of counsel, I filed a new application for a TLC license. However, this time, instead of filing for a medallion license I filed for a cheaper For-Hire-Vehicle license. This is also known as an FHV License or a Limo License. This license was granted on September 19, 2001 and I received it by mail. The license number is 5093363. However, this was not what I really wanted. The difference is that with a Limo License you either have to work for a black car or a Limo company or you have to buy your own limo which usually costs about $10,000. Basically, being a limo driver you need to drive every day according to a company's schedule, whereas I just prefer to drive 48 hours on weekends. This is necessary because my girlfriend attends LaGuardia Community College. The plan has been that I will take care of the baby while she attends classes during the week and I will drive on weekends while she is at home taking care of the baby.
40. Shortly thereafter I received a letter dated October 19, 2001 from Jeanmarie Ariola stating that my license was suspended. I have been advised by counsel that this too was illegal because a license cannot be suspended without setting a hearing date. I subsequently notified Charles Tortorici that I wanted a hearing. Due to the fact that the telephones at the Legal Department of the TLC are not working properly, I could not contact Jeanmarie Ariola directly. Mr. Tortorici told me that he would direct the Legal Department to schedule a hearing. However, no such hearing has yet been scheduled.
41. On November 2, 2001, I had a lengthy meeting with Deputy Commissioner Charles Tortorici, lasting more than one hour. I went away from that meeting feeling that a lot had been accomplished and real progress had been made. Mr. Tortorici had promised to do a number of things to resolve this problem. However, since then, it appears that he has done none of those things. It is much as though no such meeting took place. In fact, when one month later I told first Jeanmarie Ariola and them March Hardekopf that I had had a one hour meeting with Charles Tortorici, they were disbelieving that any such meeting had taken place. Apparently, Mr. Tortorici had not told anybody about this meeting.
42. I then received another letter, this one being from Marc T. Hardekopf, Assistant General Counsel of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. This letter which is also annexed hereto as an exhibit set a hearing for December 13, 2001. This one charged me with making threatening statements in a petition for a rehearing which I filed or attempted to file on June 8, 2001. However, this petition for a rehearing, which is annexed hereto, contained no threats. It merely contained the same sort of statements which I am making here, which is that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is composed of a gang of criminals who steal money from taxi drivers. I am prepared to prove the truth of this statement in a court of law. I will have as my witnesses 50,000 (fifty thousand) present and former New York City Taxi Drivers and each and every one of them will testify as to their own story of how the TLC stole money from them.
43. I have a constitutional right to Freedom of Speech and it is a violation of my constitutional rights to require me to appear to answer before the TLC concerning statements I have made about the constitutionality of their actions.
44. The letter from Marc T. Hardekopf, Assistant General Counsel of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, also charges me with failure to answer truthfully question 18 on my license application. Question 18 asks whether my license has ever been suspended or revoked. I answered that question truthfully and more than that by now everybody at the TLC knows about my case so nobody can say that they did not know who I was or my background and history of dealings with the TLC when I applied for a FHV license.
45. Furthermore, at the last hearing which was held on June 26, 2001, I was not allowed and still to this day have not been allowed to see the evidence against me or to be informed of any charges against me or to be confronted by any witnesses against me. More than that, I have not even been allowed to see the decision of the Administrative Law Judge. I have even filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the above documents and have received no response. Furthermore, everything that I have said here I have also said on the Internet, so my case is well known.
46. I have not been charged with any taxi driving related offenses. I believe that this new hearing should not be allowed to go forward until the TLC had produced everything that they should be required to produce from the last hearing. In addition, I have requested two different attorneys, both of whom have substantial practice before the TLC, to represent me at this hearing. Both have declined to represent me at the hearing, but have offered to represent me on appeal. They state that at this point if they were to appear to represent me, that would antagonize the TLC judges and would hurt their other clients.
47. I am also suing for money damages. I am not sure whether this should be brought in the same case or in a separate case, but I am bringing it here now and if need be I will file a separate case.
WHEREFORE, Petitioner prays for the following:
1. An order directing the respondents to issue TLC License number 5081212 or TLC License number 496476.
2. A full refund of all the moneys and school fees paid by petitioner for the issuance of TLC Licenses, both license number 5081212 and 5093363, because petitioner should have been allowed to renew license number 496476.
3. An order vacating the fine $280 and four points on the license issued by ALJ Bin K. Huang, inasmuch as this matter has been on appeal for more than five months with no response from the TLC.
4. An order requiring the respondents to produce for copying the entire file of license numbers 496476, 5081212 and 5093363 plus the decision of ALJ Greaves, the transcript of the hearing before ALJ Greaves, the complaints submitted by Michelle Manzione and Robin at the airport and any other documents or evidence pertaining to that hearing or to this case.
5. An order enjoining the holding of the hearing before the TLC now set for December 13, 2001 and reinstating petitioner's license number 5093363.
6. Since a taxi driver can make $1000 (one thousand dollars) per week and since petitioner has been deprived of his right to a taxi driver's license for two years since December 1999, the respondents shall be ordered to pay damages in the amount of $104,000, which is $1000 times 104 weeks.
7. Inasmuch as the acts of the respondents in this case are typical of the acts and behavior of respondents towards all taxi drivers, the above named respondents shall be required to pay ten million dollars in punitive, exemplary and compensatory damages, plus attorney's fees.
No Prior Application has been made for the Relief Requested herein.
Samuel H. Sloan