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Jun 29, 2015 2:26 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Uber Charges Reduced; Drivers Pay $400 Fines

Attorney Dan Rodgers said East Hampton's taxi law is a bad law following the settling of the charges against 19 Uber drivers on Monday afternoon. M. Wright
Jun 30, 2015 1:24 PM

East Hampton Town agreed to drop criminal charges against 19 Uber drivers on Monday, in exchange for the drivers pleading guilty to lesser charges and paying $400 fines for violating the town’s taxi licensing law.

The drivers were charged after East Hampton Town conducted a sting operation and found that Uber drivers were in violation of the town’s taxi law and were operating illegally.

Town Justice Lisa Rana and Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski accepted guilty pleas to violations, each a count of failing to hold a town-issued taxi license, from 19 drivers on Monday, 17 of whom were in the courtroom. Two other drivers pleaded guilty to an illegal camping violation—they were caught sleeping in their cabs—and paid $150 fines.

After the charges were finally dispensed with, attorney Daniel Rodgers, who represented all of the drivers, said that East Hampton Town officials should reconsider what he called “a bad law.”

“These charges should never have been brought in the first place,” said Mr. Rodgers, a Southampton defense attorney. “In East Hampton, there is no logical nexus between protecting the health and safety of the public and having a physical office in the town.”

Mr. Rodgers was alluding to the demands in the town’s taxi license code that requires a taxi driver to have his or her car registered at an address within the town. The requirement precludes Uber drivers, who are independent contractors based, primarily, in and around New York City.

Uber shut down its mobile phone-based app in East Hampton earlier this month after being unable to reach an agreement with town officials that would allow the company to continue operating in the town.

The company said the town had agreed to reduce the misdemeanor charges to violations if the company shut down the app, but then went back on the deal after Uber executives launched a public appeal for users to put pressure on town elected officials with phone calls and emails to Town Hall.

Town officials have defended the taxi law as not targeting Uber drivers specifically, but addressing a deluge of out-of-town cabs that had begun descending on the town, particularly the hamlet of Montauk, on summer weekends. At one time, town officials said, there were more than 700 cabs that had been issued licenses, and complaints were mounting about the large number of cars loitering around the hamlet during daytime hours, awaiting the busy evenings and late nights.

Uber drivers said they were told early in the season that they would be reimbursed by the company for any fines they had to pay for operating in the town without a license. Uber representatives did not respond to requests for comment this week.

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Too bad for Uber. I would call Über over local cabs anytime. Their rates are established, no surprises and a credit card is accepted. It's a shame. The local cabs have taken advantage of the locals over and over. Time for competition.
By Woods woman (145), East hampton on Jun 29, 15 5:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
What would it have cost the town to keep 19 people in jail for a year? Of course they plead down the charges. This is a case of its better to receive than to pay.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Jun 29, 15 5:34 PM
It wouldn't cost them anything? They would be at the county jail in Riverside...
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jun 30, 15 9:16 AM
And is this service really free? I get what your saying, but its not like the county, and the taxpayers, have that kind of money to incarcerate for a year a group of people who where just out to earn an honest buck. Lets keep our jail spaces open for more dangerous criminals. Politicians on the take for example.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Jun 30, 15 10:02 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Jun 29, 15 5:34 PM
The ironic part is a well known EH cab company driver told me last week that the owner of the cab company wanted Uber to stay. The cab driver said they did not like dealing with the drunken summer kids in Montauk and preferred to serve the local residents of EH/Montauk instead. They were happy to have Uber take the party kids. Once again Cantwell ignores the desire of the community as a whole and makes overreaching draconian rules to please a few vocal opponents.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Jun 29, 15 6:09 PM
The community as a whole? Really. What community are you in?
Uber drivers can operate here if they comply with regs or Uber can recruit local drivers. Right? Why haven't they? That's the real story. Much rather have my daughter in a local cab with local drivers than in an Uber with a creepy Uber driver with no ties to the community.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Jun 30, 15 10:25 AM