Cabbies To Fight Drug-testing Law

May 15, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Annapolis taxi drivers and owners said they would probably challengea new mandatory drug-testing policy passed by the City Council on Monday.

The drivers, the first in the nation to be subject to drug testing, said some of them may refuse to renew their licenses at the end of June, leaving the city short of cabs.

"We are not going to sit still," said Jordan Peters, owner of Checker Cab. Co. "Come July 1, this city might be without taxicab use."

Jody Buccellato, attorney for Annapolis City Taxicab Association, which was formed this month in response to the drug-testing proposal,questioned the law's constitutionality and said the city had shown no compelling need to test drivers and owners.

"I believe that we have to test the constitutionality and fairness of this in the courts," Buccellato said.

City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said the law would withstand constitutional scrutiny, saying it was less stringent than the city's drug-testing program for police officers and firefighters that was upheld by a court of appeals last year.

Alderman WayneC. Turner, R-Ward 6, and Transportation Director James Chase proposed testing drivers and owners for drug use last year after a few people applying for taxicab licenses were found to have drug records. The law is a major revision of the city's entire taxicab code.

Chase said he didn't have enough authority under previous law to suspend ordeny licenses to applicants with drug records.

There are 160 licensed cab drivers in Annapolis. About 50 drivers and owners attended Monday's meeting.

The vote was 7-1. Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, opposed the bill. "I don't believe drug-testing has solved anything," Gilmer said.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins spoke in favor of the plan. "There is trouble in this country, serious trouble, and I wish youall would set the example and help," Hopkins said.

Cab drivers will be able to decide when they will take the test. They also will be able to have their private physicians administer it. The doctor wouldthen certify that the driver was not abusing drugs.

To reduce thecost of the tests to drivers and owners, the city will require fewerphysicals and safety inspections.

Under earlier versions of the bill, tests would have been performed by the city, which also could require random tests.

Estimates for the cost of the tests range from$15 to $100.

In other action Monday night, the City Council:

*Received an update from Chief Harold Robbins on the Police Department's progress in meeting a 1984 court agreement addressing racial discrimination in the department. The report was not given in closed session, as previously reported, but handed to aldermen at the start of the meeting.

The City Council has set goals calling for 25 percent of the department's officers to be black and 16 percent to be women.

The department recently hired a black officer, giving the department 25 black officers, or 22 percent of the department's 114 officers.Thirteen officers, or 11.4 percent, are women. The department also has three Hispanic officer and one American Indian officer.

All four of the department's divisions now have black representation.

Robbins also recommended turning the Police-Minority Community RelationsBoard into a biracial board, to address issues of concern to all residents.

But board member Bertina Nick said the group should focus on issues of concern to black residents now, before becoming biracial.

* Honored police Officer Peter Medley and resident Joseph Parkerfor saving an 8-year-old boy three weeks ago when he crawled into a 13,000-volt transformer in the Robinwood public housing development.

Chief Robbins gave Medley the Medal of Honor and Parker the Distinguished Service Citation. The awards are the highest an officer and civilian can receive from the department. The two men also were honored by the Black Officers Association and received a standing ovation from residents in the packed Council Chambers.

Medley is white. Parker is black.

Meanwhile, a fund-raiser for the boy, Terrence Tolbert, has raised $1,600 to date. Tolbert was seriously burned and lost an arm in the accident.

Annapolis Housing Authority Executive Director Harold S. Greene has decided to fence off the transformer where the boy was burned. He will decide what to do with the rest of the authority's 42 transformers when the work is completed later this week.

* Rejected a bill that would have given department directors morejob security but approved a bill increasing the number of children registered day-care providers may supervise from four to eight.

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