Cab company disputes former driver’s claims

By Alex Bridges

Yellow Cab of the Shenandoah reacted to claims made by a former driver accused by the company of using sensitive data to help a competitor.

General Manager Michelle Foster said Friday that statements Timothy Cooke made to the Northern Virginia Daily about his former employer were false.

Yellow Cab filed a civil complaint in Warren County Circuit Court against Cooke and several other former employees that accuses them of taking a secret list of information on clients and customer invoices. The lawsuit states that the defendants used the information to gain customers for his employer, A1 Taxi LLC, also named in the complaint.

Yellow Cab had no such list, Cooke claimed Thursday. He said information Yellow Cab has comes from a typical phone book.

But Foster refutes Cooke’s statement. Yellow Cab keeps customer pickup information in a “time call book,” Foster said. Drivers have access to this book with the customer names, addresses and times for pickup, she added.

“These are regular customers that ride every day and have what we call in the business as standing time call,” Foster said. “He did not use a phone book to go recruit customers. He went door to door to all of our customers whom he had picked up regularly, knew where they lived and that will be brought up in court because we have statements from our customers offering them special deals and discounts undercutting our fares.”

Cooke worked for Yellow Cab until early April. Cooke said he left Yellow Cab after suffering serious medical conditions. Cooke went to work for A1 Taxi shortly thereafter.

But Foster says Cooke did not end his employment with Yellow Cab over health reasons. Foster claims Cooke left after he was involved in a crash with another vehicle while driving a Yellow Cab taxi with passengers. Foster said Cooke ran a stop sign and another vehicle T-boned his cab.

Warren County General District Court records show that Cooke was charged with reckless driving Feb. 12, a class 1 misdemeanor. A judge on March 26 found Cooke guilty of the reduced charge of improper control of a vehicle, a traffic infraction, and ordered him to pay a $100 fine plus court costs.

Fisher explained that the contract drivers sign with Yellow Cab make the operator liable for damage to the vehicle should they become involved in a traffic crash and they are found at fault.

As a result of the crash, Yellow Cab filed a warrant in debt against Cooke seeking payment for the damage to the vehicle. A judge ruled in favor of Yellow Cab on May 1 and ordered Cooke to pay the principal amount of $700 plus interest. Cooke filed a counterclaim against Yellow Cab on April 29. A judge dismissed the case May 1.

Town Council and officials are considering imposing strict regulations on taxi companies that operate in Front Royal. One proposed rule would prohibit convicted felons from driving taxis. Cooke admitted that he has a felony conviction but he was turning his life around and that some crimes should not preempt a person from driving a taxi.

Foster claims Cooke did not tell the previous general manager during his job interview that he had a felony conviction. Cooke did not show up in a background check for Virginia. The general manager did not run a check in other states, Foster said.

“I give them a thorough interview,” Foster said.

Foster asks prospective independent contractors if they are over the age of 23, as required by the company’s insurance provider; if they are convicted of a felony and if they are a convicted sex offender. The company does not hire registered sex offenders. Then the interview proceeds. Foster noted that under her management the company performs nationwide checks of sex offender registries and for felony convictions.

“They could commit a crime in California and it wouldn’t do me any good to check just Virginia,” Foster said.

Contrary to Cooke’s claims, Yellow Cab does conduct random drug tests on its drivers. Cooke said he didn’t know of anyone at Yellow Cab who had to take a drug test. Foster said such tests are confidential between the company, the employee and Valley Health’s Urgent Care center, which performs the screenings.

Drivers sign a contract with the company to operate vehicles owned by Yellow Cab, Foster explained. Drivers pay a lease fee to the company, keep track of their daily earnings and report the information to the Internal Revenue Service.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com