Rumford selectmen have no choice but to reverse themselves and revoke taxicab company licenses for Road Hog Express and Courtesy Cab, unless the companies fire every driver who has a criminal or driving conviction.

A town ordinance requires it.

There is no state law that regulates taxicab companies, so towns are responsible for setting their own rules of operation.

In 2007, Rumford voters amended the Motor Vehicles for Hire ordinance to include a list of exclusions when the town issues taxicab licenses, including prohibiting the employ of anyone ever convicted of operating under the influence, operating after suspension, sexual assault, assault and several other offenses related to driving.

According to the ordinance, it is “the responsibility for any person or any entity applying for a license to make certain that no person hired to drive is in violation of the offenses” listed in the ordinance, so every year taxi company owners are responsible for conducting these checks and taking appropriate action.

These two companies never did and police never checked. Sort of like routinely getting away with speeding down Congress Street because police never set up radar traps. Just because police did not enforce the regulation does not diminish the responsibility of these cab companies to adhere to municipal law.

One of the companies, Road Hog Express, has seven drivers. Among them, there are 10 OUI convictions, six operating after suspension convictions, 15 assault convictions, one conviction for reckless driving and one of the drivers is a habitual offender. The owner himself is responsible for seven of the OUI convictions and 11 of the assault convictions.

Given that the companies have ignored the self-policing requirement in the ordinance and knowingly hired convicted criminals to drive their vehicles, Police Chief Stacy Carter has appropriately asked selectmen to consider revoking the licenses when they meet tonight.

And revoke they must.

The taxicab owners and drivers want to see the amendment changed to limit consideration of criminal convictions to only the past five years. That’s a very worthy conversation to have, but the current ordinance doesn’t allow this leeway and selectmen are bound by regulations now in place. Every conviction counts.

If selectmen were to consider amending the ordinance — which would require a public hearing and special election or town meeting — perhaps they might consider adding a requirement for taxicab companies to include evidence of background checks with applications for license renewal each year, strengthening and focusing owners’ responsibility to hire responsible drivers as a simple matter of public safety.

The third company operating in Rumford, Mountain Valley Taxi Service, employs 11 drivers. Not one of them has any criminal or driving convictions.

This company is proof that a conviction-free operation is possible. Who knows? Maybe Mountain Valley Taxi can boost business by marketing responsibility.

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