HAVING WASTED public monies at meetings paying $150 a member to come up with a spectacularly awful cab fare increase -- calculated to hurt drivers as well as passengers -- three obstructionists on the D.C. Taxicab Commission have voted to hold their next "work session" in secret. This scheduled gathering of the commission's rate panel supposedly will take up proposals to increase the cost of licenses and permits for drivers -- but will not be witnessed by the taxi-paying public or the drivers who will be hit with the fees. It's no way to do public business and should be stopped -- by emergency legislation, executive order or whatever it takes. And given the irresponsible performances of the three commissioners who prefer to do things in secret, Mayor Barry should replace them before they mess up anything else.

The names to remember are Joseph Becker, John Jessamy and Lucille Johnson. They are the three panel members responsible for the 40-cents-a-ride surcharge that is scheduled to take effect March 1; and they are the three who voted for a secret session. They are also the three members who work overtime to undermine their chairman, Arrington Dixon, and who have yet to demonstrate any sense of constructive consensus.

The surcharge should serve as a great new disincentive for drivers to pick up riders for any of the longer trips. Every reasonable fare increase proposal to come before the commissioners has involved some formula for increases for each zone traveled. The cabbies do need a break: they haven't had a fare increase of any kind for almost three years. They've watched their expenses go up -- but now are told they cannot watch the members taking up still higher costs of doing business.

Calling a meeting a "work session" doesn't excuse secret gatherings of public officials -- and when the subject is public transportation, things should move in public.