CLEVELAND -- Despite dozens of moving violations on their record, local cabbies continue to share the road with the rest of us because of a system that allows them to avoid accumulating points on their licenses.
A Channel 3 News review of traffic court records in Cleveland shows that a number of taxi drivers agree to plead to a lesser offense and pay a fine, so they can avoid points and a possible suspension of their license.
Taxi drivers told the Investigator Tom Meyer it happens all the time.
"As long as I don't have points, I can drive," said Mohammed Abdel-Razek, who drives for United Cab. He says he's been ticketed about a dozen times since March.
"Yes, I have lots of tickets," he readily admits. He blames his violations on police harassment.
"Why would they harass you," asked Meyer.
"Because they can," said Abdel-Razek. "They deliberately pick on cab drivers."
The division of licenses and assessments at Cleveland City Hall renews taxi drivers licenses. The Mayor's press secretary, Andrea Taylor, said no one was available to be interviewed on this subject.
But Meyer spoke to licenses commissioner Dedrick Stephens by phone. He said they'll renew a cabbie's license as long he or she has a valid Ohio driver's license at the time of renewal.
"Who are we to second guess the state of Ohio?" asked Stephens.
His division does not examine court records to determine if deals were cut, nor do they look at a driver's overall record.
In Emad Wahba's case, they would find he has at least 40 moving violations. Wahba is trying to resume his job with Ace taxi after taking some time off.
"This record is totally unacceptable," said Devo Bavishi, the president of Ace.
City records show Mustafa Mohammed has accumulated 37 violations, 7 accidents, and 2 suspensions. Seventeen additional tickets were dismissed. Records show he's driving for United Cab.
State records show 290 cabbies have accumulated 2,356 moving violations and 758 accidents. Steve Codnor believes the city needs to crack down on bad cab drivers. And it's no wonder.
Codnor says he's been unable to work since 2008, when a driver for Airport Taxi crossed the center line at the airport and smashed into the vehicle he was driving.
"He hit me and took off," said Codnor. The cab driver got a ride from another cab driver and Codnor hasn't seen him since.
"That guy turned his life upside down," said Debbie Reed, Steve's friend.