A Washington taxicab driver who balked at driving a member of Congress to National Airport to Capital Hill had his hacker's permit suspended for 10 weeks yesterday for that case and for another incident involving a woman passenger who accused him of shoving her during a fan dispute.
Steven Binder, chairman of the D.C. Hackers' License Appeal Board, which imposed the suspension, said the action against cabdriver Girma Tesfay should help dispel a widespread "idea that we have a negligent taxicab system in this city." He said it was the most severe penalty in recent memory.
The board upheld a two-week suspension imposed earlier by the D.C. Department of Transportation for an incident Feb. 4 involving Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.), who said she entered Tuesday's cab but he refused to drive her without first picking up another passenger. Ferraro said Tesfay then was impolite and claimed not to know the way to her destination three blocks from the Capitol. The second passenger never was picked up.
Ferraro testified briefly yesterday, restating her complaint and voicing unsolicited support for installing meters in Washington cabs. Tefay did not contest her testimony.
The suspension in the ferraro case set the stage for a 60-day suspension in an incident stemming from a complaint filed by Catherine Y. Graham, a resident of Washington's Kalorama neighborhood, who contented that Tesfay sought to charge her $9.50 on March 29 for a trip from the airport with her daughter that should have cost no more than $7.15.
Believing she was overcharged, she said she sent her daughter into her apartment to call police. The daughter, Julia Frantzman, 14, testified that after telephoning, she looked out a window and saw Tesfay shove her mother as the woman attempted to get out of the back seat of the cab.
Tesfay voiced a general denial of the accusation. He refused comment to a reporter.
In another case, the hackers' board imposed a two-week suspension on driver Ambrose Onyekwerc for refusing to transport Timothy Flannigan, who hailed him while in a wheelchair at the Kennedy Center.