Aspen drops case against free taxi
Ryan Summerlin January 13, 2009
ASPEN, Colorado ” The city of Aspen, Colorado dropped its case against a local taxi driver who offers rides for free after he sought a business license from the city on Tuesday.
Cabbie Phillip Sullivan had been scheduled to stand trial Wednesday in Aspen municipal court on multiple counts in connection with his free taxicab service. The jury trial has been canceled, the city announced Tuesday afternoon, and dismissal of the case will be finalized in court on Wednesday.
The city initiated a case against Sullivan last year, citing his failure to obtain a business license. Sullivan applied for, and received, a business license from the city Tuesday morning, and provided proof of insurance to the city attorney’s office, the city said in a press release.
“The city’s position was that Sullivan was operating a taxi business without a business license, however, Sullivan asserted he provided the service for free,” said Jim True, assistant city attorney, in the press release. “Since Sullivan was accepting money for the service, the city maintained that he was conducting a business, as defined by the city’s municipal code.”
Sullivan had maintained he did not charge passengers for his services. “If somebody leaves money in my car or gives me money, I generally take it, but I don’t ask for it,” he told The Aspen Times in March 2008.
Charges against Sullivan ranged from operating without a business license to failure to pay the city’s occupation tax, as well as operating a cab without a meter or rate card, according to court documents.
His legal troubles began with a complaint filed by High Mountain Taxi Service of Aspen in 2006 with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. In December 2008, an undercover officer with the commission hitched a ride with Sullivan. The cabbie didn’t charge the “passenger,” who instead offered Sullivan a tip, which he accepted. He was then ticketed by the PUC officer.
An administrative law judge later ruled Sullivan owed $12,100 in fines for violating PUC regulations, but Sullivan refused to pay.
Sullivan was issued a summons by the city of Aspen in 2008, which led to Wednesday’s now-canceled trial.
See Wednesday’s Aspen Times for more on Tuesday’s developments.