Investigation into Uber Crackdown Reveals Extent to Which Yellow Cab Called the Shots

Categories: City Hall

dallasneedsuber.jpg
C. Troy Mathis
The highly anticipated investigation commissioned by Mayor Mike Rawlings has dropped. And, as expected, it boils down to this: Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Most significantly, the report reveals that the charges against Uber drivers snared in undercover ops by Dallas vice officers have been tossed. Given the circumstances, it's the right thing to do, and it's also probably the smart thing, since the city is 0-1 when it comes to facing off against Uber before a jury.

But chief among its findings is the mayor's conviction that the city manager's office is innocent of illegal or unethical conduct. Yet to the extent that this report constitutes daylight shed on the hand-in-glove machinations between the city and Yellow Cab to crush a competitor, this looks even uglier than it did before.

See also: Uber Investigation Blames Interim Dallas City Manager, Finds No Illegal Conduct

The most fascinating revelation is that Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez was apparently suffering from a horrendous bout of kidney stones in the weeks leading up to the draft ordinance's placement on the consent agenda. If civil or criminal charges were ever levied, the stones are an affirmative defense, in my opinion. They're just awful. If I were laid up for two weeks like that, there's no telling what kind of crazy shit I'd place on the consent agenda. Meanwhile, he's in charge of the city budget for the first time.

None of that, however, explains the June 2013 strategy meeting attended by city staff, Dallas Police, public works and John Barr, Yellow Cab's attorney, apparently to discuss the crackdown on Uber. That just looks bad. It looks like industry serving as a de facto arm of city government. Ditto for emails sent from Barr to assistant city manager Joey Zapata regarding an Uber advertisement: "We need to ticket this for advertising and avoidance of code."

It becomes even more troubling when paired with the admission from a city attorney that a number of the citations issued to drivers were based on information obtained by a private investigator who was hired by Barr. We reported this in a cover story last month.

We also reported that Barr met with the city regarding the ordinance, but this report brings specifics. Apparently Barr gave Zapata a regulatory wishlist, which he then turned over to the city attorney's office. Some of the requested regulations, the city attorney said, were "not enforceable."

The report also confirms the deep misgivings police Chief David Brown had about deploying vice cops to sting possible code violations.

Rawlings thinks Gonzalez and his staff were blind to a changing "marketplace dynamics" and "naive" to think that running Uber out of town wouldn't draw a response. He characterized the whole sorry affair an "overreach" of his office.

And maybe that's it. The whole affair wasn't a wildly unethical case of city staff working under the table with a virtual private monopoly to use the power of the police to eliminate a competitor, all without consulting Dallas' elected leaders. It was just a man who suddenly found himself in what is arguably the most powerful seat in the city (at least when Mary Suhm occupied it), juggling a budget, demon kidney stones and the attorney for the region's biggest taxi conglomerate crawling up his backside -- a man who simply made a series of bone-headed-but-innocent moves that happen to look really bad in context, and would have stood coincidentally to benefit one company long known to have significant pull in City Hall.

According to the mayor's report, that's it and that's all.


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41 comments
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

For AC to say that Mary had nothing to do with this and tried to steer him away from it is bullshit. This story has her fingerprints all over it, including a "fall guy" to take the blame for another episode of "Dirty Mary". This is what she does. It's her game to get someone else to take the fall. She should put shipped to China, and even that's not far enough. AC should remain an assistant and hire someone from another state and who hates Texas, Dallas, and never heard of the Citizens Council. Only then, will we get a good candidate.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

If you didn't vote in the mayoral election runoff in 2011, don't go carping about Mike Rawlings.  Only 9.7% of eligible Dallas voters bothered to show up at the polls.  Stop kvetching, complaining, and whining about your elected officials if you don't vote! 

saanderson
saanderson

Agreed. The City of Dallas is unfriendly to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Soul crushing, actually. 

 I fear that Mayor Rawlings legacy will be Ubergate and - fair or not -- his perpetuation of City Hall's anti-business practices.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Use Cowboy Cab.  So much more comfortable, efficient, clean, and punctual. 

ThomasK
ThomasK

Dallas is not a good place to do business. The city manager form of government is obstructive to small, entrepreneurial and creative class businesses.

Tomas
Tomas

 The other sad thing to come out of this story is the realization that the new city attorney is either incompetent or willing to play the same shenanigans played by the Mayor and certain council members over the years, with the help from the behind the scenes power brokers.  It would have been nice if we had an attorney that kept the city from breaking laws, rather than helping them get away with it when they want to

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

What really bothers me is the common cover-up themes in the Rylie shooting and the Uber crackdown.  In the Police shooting, the City knew about the video and still kept his mother away until the DMN broke the story.  The City knew that they had acted inappropriately with Uber, however we had to pay $50k for them to investigate it.

If this is how Gonzales acts when he is being "interviewed" for the position, then I think we should take a pass on him while we still can.  However, as far as Uber is concerned, I think he did exactly what he was told to do by the Mayor and several council members.   

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I hope that the City pays just as much attention to the out of compliance building going up near me.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Not buying kidney stone story. IBS, maybe [something stinks]

Greg820
Greg820

I'm just glad that the people allegedly doing wrong were the ones that investigated the people that were allegedly doing wrong and found after a thourough review and $50k that nothing was wrong.  That is a big weight off my shoulders.

jbvance24
jbvance24

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com  and login to facebook.com/bettergovernment to see the problems in dallas political, legal and judicial communities and how a whole city involving AC, mary schum, the mayor, councilpersons intimidated a poor person into silence about corruption involving a top judge connected to the community.  the uber scandal isn't the only one.  Its just a distraction.  

http://dallastx.swagit.com/play/10232013-635   go to open microphone speakers    4 min 10 seconds.  michelle brady speaks on my behalf then I speak.  If I were manager none of this bs would happen.

jbvance24
jbvance24

@saanderson

login to facebook.com/bettergovernment to see the problems in dallas political, legal and judicial communities and how a whole city involving AC, mary schum, the mayor, councilpersons intimidated a poor person into silence about corruption involving a top judge connected to the community.  the uber scandal isn't the only one.  Its just a distraction.  

http://dallastx.swagit.com/play/10232013-635   go to open microphone speakers    4 min 10 seconds.  michelle brady speaks on my behalf then I speak.  If I were manager none of this bs would happen.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@saanderson He shouldn't have been the damn mayor in the first place. Kunkle was the man for the job and Dallas screwed the pooch because as usual, North Dallas paid South Dallas because North Dallas wanted someone to do their bidding, and here you have it. Between a Pizza Hut exec and a (great) former Chief of Police, is there any question who has more integrity?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@ThomasK You know, I hear that a lot, especially from restauranteurs and yet somehow there are restaurants all over the damn place. Perhaps the suburbs are easier to deal with, but I get the feeling that the Dallas bureaucracy isn't that different from any other large city.

James080
James080

@ThomasK  

Dallas is a pay to play city. You're just not paying the right people.

James080
James080

@Tomas  

The new City Attorney was hired from within, so what did you expect? Continuity is the goal of hiring from within. The message in Dallas is, don't make waves, do as you're told, turn a blind eye, and some day you will rise to the top of your department.

James080
James080

@Rumpunch1  

Rumpunch1, don't you think the whole point of the investigation was to give the Mayor and Council time to get their story straight?  They simply needed a week or so to determine whether their involvement in the anti-Uber conspiracy could be proven or plausibly denied. They're (almost) all getting money from Yellow Cab on a regular basis.

On the other hand, if the counsil and everyone in city management other than Gonzalez was totally out of the loop, then Dallas has much, much more serious problems. The NCAA would call it a lack of institutional control. In the Uber case, a private business was given free reign to direct city resouses, regulation and the police to damage its competition.  All on his own. Really? Really?

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@Rumpunch1 "However, as far as Uber is concerned, I think he did exactly what he was told to do by the Mayor and several council members.".....could not agree with you more, once the email chains actually came out, it made him look a little "better"....he was just doing what he was told to do and picked up where Suhm left off in regards to that topic  

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

He's going to get the permanent city manager gig, this was all just a test to see if he could be as teflon as Mary Suhm was and take orders from the shadows of city hall. Not that I'm cynical or anything.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Dear citizen formerly known as Paul,

We, the City of Dallas, are going to have to ask you to settle your priorities.  You only get one thing to be concerned about; either your truck or variance-granted building (or it will be soon) near your home.  You do not get to to complain about both.  City staff is patiently waiting for your ID-10T forms to be submitted in triplicate so we can begin the process of stonewalling, blame-shifting, responsibility-dodging and story-spinning with regards to the investigation into your stolen truck (which you already found, so, like, what do you want US to do?).

saanderson
saanderson

@P1Gunter @saanderson I like Kunkle a lot and I wish we would have elected him, but you're going down a rabbit hole if you want to have an integrity discussion about the two men. Let's just say we all have our warts and no one wants to talk about Kunkling again.

saanderson
saanderson

@P1Gunter @ThomasK Restaurants? Really? Is that how we grow the tax base and job opportunities in the City of Dallas? Tell me some examples of the next T.I. or EDS? We no longer foster the growth of entrepreneurial businesses that have a highly educated or specialized workforce. Hooray for the booming service industry. Dallas is no longer friendly to new and growing businesses.

jbvance24
jbvance24

@James080 @Tomas  login to facebook.com/bettergovernment to see the problems in dallas political, legal and judicial communities and how a whole city involving AC, mary schum, the mayor, councilpersons intimidated a poor person into silence about corruption involving a top judge connected to the community.  the uber scandal isn't the only one.  Its just a distraction.  

http://dallastx.swagit.com/play/10232013-635   go to open microphone speakers    4 min 10 seconds.  michelle brady speaks on my behalf then I speak.  If I were manager none of this bs would happen.

 

jbvance24
jbvance24

@James080

@Tomas

  login to facebook.com/bettergovernment to see the problems in dallas political, legal and judicial communities and how a whole city involving AC, mary schum, the mayor, councilpersons intimidated a poor person into silence about corruption involving a top judge connected to the community.  the uber scandal isn't the only one.  Its just a distraction.  

http://dallastx.swagit.com/play/10232013-635   go to open microphone speakers    4 min 10 seconds.  michelle brady speaks on my behalf then I speak.  If I were manager none of this bs would happen.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@James080 @Tomas "...Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.  Stay close to your desks, and never go to sea.  And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navy." - W.S. Gilbert  HMS Pinafore.

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

@James080 @Tomas It's entirely likely that he's incompetent, too.  Rawlings said as much in his summary of Hill's investigation.

saanderson
saanderson

@James080 Ubergate is exactly the type of story that the New York Times would eat up with a spoon. It plays on all kinds of anti-Texas stereotypes (greed, small town-style corruption) and counters the "Texas is open for business" storyline. Dallas cannot afford to be portrayed as a bad business town.

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

Now, if he doesn't get the job, he might get a little chatty.

Greg820
Greg820

@P1Gunter Anyone know what gas drilling company Suhm is working for now?

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

@P1Gunter I think that the Council will find him more valuable than Suhm in that he will take a bullet for them.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@saanderson @P1Gunter @ThomasK Maybe you're too young to remember, I dunno, but a certain basketball team owner started a certain "entrepreneurial" company, and when he wanted to move his company from Deep Ellum to Far North Dallas, we gave him a wad of money to stay put. I'm just wondering, is this the type of business that you think Dallas does not "foster the growth" of??

saanderson
saanderson

@P1Gunter @saanderson @ThomasK And AT&T and Cash America and a few others. Here's the problem. Most of them are old economy businesses and they either do not have or are bring with high value jobs like in technology and bio-medicine. Also, old companies eventually die. Where's our new economy business? Restaurants?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@saanderson @P1Gunter @ThomasK I can only speak on what I've heard from small business owners, I am not one myself. Though I would point out that Comerica relocated here a handful of years ago and a lot of other companies have too, so it can't be that bad.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@Greg820 @P1Gunter I'm going to guess that bridge got burned when the gas drilling didn't happen. My guess is she'll end up as a lobbyist/backroom dealer for one of the big construction companies associated with the MHH Bridge or the Trinity River Clusterfuck.

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