Philly transit authority gives slap on the wrist to cabbie who threw gay men out of the car

Derek de Koff

The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) is patting themselves on the back for quickly responding to a complaint about a cabbie who threw two gay men out of the car. But is “the agency that everybody loves to hate” getting ahead of themselves?

Joel Bautista and Michael Rios are friends who live near each other. In March, after a night out, the two men shared a cab back to their neighborhood.

They say they briefly talked about their love lives and then moved on to discussing Lasik surgery. Suddenly, cabbie Daman Sacko pulled the car over and ordered them out.

“We asked him why, and he said, ‘I don’t want that gay s- in my car,’ ” Rios told the Philly News.  “I said, ‘But we’re talking about Lasik surgery!’”

After the men contacted the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs and PPA authorities, the agency started investigating.

“We received his complaint at 10 a.m. and by 2:30, we had the cabbie in here for an interview,” Christine Kirlin, head of the PPA’s Taxi and Limousine Division, told the paper. “We took this very seriously.”

The focus on how quickly they jumped on the allegation is likely due to community complaints that the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations took almost a decade to decide that PHL Taxi violated the city’s non-discrimination law in 2009. The company was fined $500 in that instance; the driver is still a certified cabbie in Philly.

Sacko kept changing his story about what happened that night. First, he said the men were “talking dirty,” then claimed they propositioned him. Finally, he said they had asked him to pull over before their destination and then refused to pay.

“In the beginning, we didn’t want to interfere with his livelihood; we just wanted him to know that what he did was wrong,” Rios said. “But when we heard about the lies he was telling, we said, ‘No, we want to go to court.’”

The PPA found in favor of the men, and the citation was upheld on appeal. Sacko was fined $175, had his driver’s certificate suspended for 30 days, and was ordered to take an anti-discrimination training.

“It’s terrific training, and we think it would benefit every driver and passenger,” PPA executive director Scott Petri says.

If the cabbie does it again, the PPA says they’ll investigate and if found true, they’ll seek to cancel his certificate permanently.

The fact that Sacko had already taken the training didn’t seem to register with Petri. Nor did the idea that the punishment wasn’t nearly sufficient.

An employee or contractor who broke the law, refused to do their job, and lied to authorities, should not expect to keep their position, but pay a minimal fine.

That’s not justice. That’s lip service.

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