Cabdriver’s history of DUIs costs him permit to operate

A veteran San Francisco cabdriver who was found to have four charges of driving under the influence had his permit to operate a cab in The City revoked Wednesday.

Robert Friedman has drunken driving convictions from 1999 and 2001 in Plumas County, a 2001 conviction in Contra Costa County and a 2006 arrest in Alameda County that hasn’t resulted in a conviction.

The convictions came to light after San Francisco police sent a letter to the Taxicab Commission nearly one year ago, San Francisco Taxicab Commission Executive Director Jordanna Thigpen said.

After an investigation and hearing, taxi commissioners voted in February to revoke Friedman’s permit, but Friedman appealed.

On Wednesday, The City’s Board of Appeals reheard Friedman’s case and voted 4-0 to uphold the earlier decision.

Friedman’s attorney, Geoffrey Rotwein, has argued that Friedman’s driving experience and his “success at addressing” his alcoholism only warrants suspending his permit, not revoking it.

Friedman has not driven a cab since 2001, when he went on disability for migraine headaches, Rotwein said. Thigpen said Friedman deserves nothing less than the loss of his permit.

“I have compassion for him. I know other people do, too. But the reality is he must solve the problems independent of being a taxicab driver in San Francisco,” Thigpen said.

Even if he is not driving, Friedman is still in possession of his medallion, the metal plate cabdrivers display to show they are permitted by The City. Medallion holders are required to drive 800 hours annually — but also can make thousands of dollars off of the medallion by leasing it to other drivers or to cab companies.

About 3,500 people are on the waiting list for a medallion, and it is estimated it takes about 14 years to obtain one. To date, San Francisco has issued about 1,400 medallions. Thigpen said that there are thousands of cabdrivers on the waiting list worthy of a medallion who are abiding by the rules.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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