Harbor Shuttle operator out of business after city prohibits Harborplace landing Silver Clipper Inc. plans to seek injunction

February 27, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

One of Baltimore's familiar water taxis went out of business yesterday.

The city is prohibiting Silver Clipper Inc., which operates as Harbor Shuttle, from landing at the Harborplace Amphitheatre, between the Pratt and Light streets pavilions. The amphitheater was the company's only Inner Harbor stop.

"It's devastating," said Ron Morgan, Silver Clipper president. "At this point, I don't know what's going to happen. We're officially out of business."

George G. Balog, director of the Department of Public Works, issued the directive Monday -- five days after Morgan filed a $2 million suit against the city for halting his use of six other landings.

Morgan's attorney, John B. Stolarz, said he will seek an %o injunction today blocking the city's action.

"It's already been prepared," Stolarz said yesterday.

"The whole situation is utterly ridiculous," said Dean P. Charlton, president of the Southeast Baltimore Business Association. "As citizens and taxpayers, we should have the right to choose which water taxi service we want to use. I don't understand what gives the city the right to choose for us."

Officials at the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for Baltimore's harbor landings, would not comment yesterday.

But in a letter to Morgan, Balog wrote that Harbor Shuttle could no longer land at the amphitheater because Morgan had ended contract negotiations with the city Feb. 12.

"I couldn't sign the contract the city sent me because it would have put me out of business," Morgan said. "I wouldn't have been able to compete with Ed Kane," owner of Harbor Boating Inc., who runs the Water Taxi and uses eight city-owned landings in the Inner Harbor.

City records show Morgan signed a contract three years ago to renew his original 1990 agreement with the city. But Balog's letter states that the agreement "was never executed by the Mayor and City Council, nor was it approved by the Board of Estimates."

Morgan says Balog's decision to revoke his rights to the amphitheater is the most recent example of the city's decadelong policy of favoring his competitor, Kane.

"They're edging me out because Kane has connections and I don't," Morgan said. He believes Kane has repeatedly received favored treatment by city officials because of his friendship with Richard E. Hurley Jr., former director of construction at the Baltimore Development Corp.

Hurley was in charge of the city's harbor landings for several years, until October, shortly before he retired. He and Kane have been friends since 1972.

Kane and Hurley have denied Morgan's allegations of cronyism.

Now, Harbor Shuttle's nine pontoon boats sit in the water at Canton's Tindeco Wharf.

But passengers who rely on the company's early-morning service to commute downtown will not be stranded. Morgan says he'll drive them to work in his company van.

And Kane said yesterday that he's looking for more captains to offer morning taxi service.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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