OC To Revise Cab Driver Drug Testing Policy

OCEAN CITY – The town’s taxi ordinance is still a work in process as taxi medallion holders continue to not comply with the law that cab drivers have to be drug tested.

Risk Management representative Christine Parks explained the city began random drug testing for taxi drivers through the Atlantic General Health (AGH) System on 10th Street back in early December of 2010. To date, the program has tested over 80 drivers and four have tested positive for marijuana.

She said the health center has had issues contacting taxi medallion holders or taxi cab company owners. She said the health center has come to the conclusion that medallion holders ignore the center’s call because the information is provided through caller ID.

“If she [health center employee] uses her personal cell phone, she will get a live person,” Parks said.

Parks asked the council for a remedy to the situation by amending the taxi ordinance to include the 10th Street Atlantic General Health System as an agent for the town. She explained that the most recent taxi ordinance passed contains a section that taxi cab medallion holders shall maintain a business telephone service by which a Town of Ocean City representative can reach the medallion holder within 60 minutes of a 24-hour a day basis.

“I think that would work because I think the word is getting around that the program is there, it is up and running, it’s running smoothly, and were getting positive results,” Parks said. “But now they’re trying to delay testing until employees are clear.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight motioned to include Atlantic General Health System as a representative for the town and the council voted unanimously to approve.

Next the council discussed the repercussion if a medallion holder continues to ignore the health center’s calls.

“I say we suspend the medallions…I would suspend them all until we bring them in for a hearing,” Council Secretary Lloyd Martin said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asserted that if the town were to suspend all of the company’s medallions ignored the call then all of the company’s drivers would be punished for that one action.

“The whole thing is the safety of the passengers and the medallion allowed the town to put some teeth in this and not have them duck us all the time,” Council President Jim Hall said. “And drug testing is probably the most important test we do besides a background check.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said that if a medallion holder owns a fleet of taxis, and if one driver does not show up for a drug test, all of that company’s taxis would have to be taken off the street, causing irreparable harm to the owner.

“You yank them off the street and not have a hearing until four or five days later and find out there is a perfect acceptable reason why the driver wasn’t there,” Ayres said.

Jim Hall pointed out that by adding the health center as a town representative that may be enough to have the medallion holders answer the phone.

Councilman Joe Hall said that a consequence still needs to be suggested and brought back for discussion or the ordinance will continue to be not taken seriously. He added that if the town follows through with what has been discussed and the first medallion owner has his fleet’s medallions suspended then cab company owners will start answering their phone.

“We will send a notification to the taxi medallion holders that the 10th Atreet testing center is now an agent of Ocean City and we will enforce that ordinance,” Jim Hall said. “If they do not except that call or return it within 60 minutes, we will take action to remove their medallions and hopefully we will get compliance right away.”