Yellow Cab czar Jesse Gaddis has been running the taxi dispatch system at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for decades. But now the dispatch contract is being put out for bid -- and Broward County staff has effectively disqualified Gaddis from the job.
In a request for letters of interest (RLI) the county forbids any company with financial interest in ground transportation at the airport from bidding on dispatch. The clause was meant to eliminate companies that would have an obvious conflict of interest. Obviously, Yellow Cab has a leg up on other cab companies at the airport since it controls all dispatch there.
And now the county is eliminating Gaddis' company, which operates under the name B & L Services, from running the show. It's a huge victory for the cab drivers, many of them Haitian, who have complained for years that the dispatch system is unfair.
And it's a big defeat for Gaddis, whose taxi monopoly in Broward County has been criticized for years. Gaddis attorney John Camillo wrote a protest letter to Broward County Purchasing Director Brenda Billingsley on February 3. "Arguably the foregoing provision in the RLI prohibits my client from consideration as a potential provider for the service requested," Camillo wrote. "My client protests this provision."
Billingsley got back to Camillo on February 10 -- and she stood her ground admirably.
"With this restriction, Broward County made the conscious decision to not have future contracts awarded to a company that would provide both transportation services and [dispatch] at the airport or seaport," she replied. "Government organizations have regularly written restrictions on the roles a single company can fulfill so that conflicts of interest are avoided."
In another seeming slap at Gaddis, the county is also forcing prospective dispatch providers to reveal criminal records of the company's principals. Not surprising that Camillo protested this measure since Gaddis was convicted of armed robbery at the age of 20 and was charged with robbery and kidnapping at 28 (the charges were later dropped). To read more about Gaddis's colorful history (along with Emerson Allsworth), click here.
Cutting Gaddis from dispatch is the right thing to do. I'm just wondering why it's happening now. Gaddis, after all, has poured huge amounts of money into Broward County commissioners' coffers to help keep his fiefdom in place. (John Rodstrom practically looks at him like an uncle). Last time Gaddis lost in the county was back in 2001 when two commissioners he didn't back -- Josephus Eggelletion and Ben Graber -- were elected. They swiftly acted to take allow other cab companies to operate at the airport, ending his monopoly there.
Don't know if there is similar political payback happening here or not (Rodstrom claimed to not even know about the issue), or if Billingsley just decided to right the ship. Either way, the move should be hailed as a step towards decency in a county with too little of it.