Meeting to discuss cab commission canceled

A meeting to discuss who should lead the embattled San Francisco Taxicab Commission was canceled at the last minute Monday.

The cancellation came on the heels of the commission’s decision early Wednesday morning to fire Executive Director Heidi Machen.

On Thursday, Mayor Gavin Newsom, who appointed Machen and has the power to appoint commissioners, realigned members so a pro-Machen majority existed. He said he intends to reinstate Machen, 40, who once worked as his aide.

Machen was appointed by the mayor in August to head the commission, which oversees taxi operations in The City. Newsom can appoint an executive director, but commission members can fire him or her.

A reason for the canceled meeting was not given, but members of the cab industry are questioning the qualifications of the acting director. Machen had also butted heads with some members of the industry.

In Machen's absence, Tristan Bettencourt, a senior administrative analyst at the commission, is in charge as the de facto executive director.

Bettencourt is not qualified to lead the panel, said Michael Spain, vice president of the Permit Holders Association, which represents medallion holders.

“Tristan’s only been there four or five months,” Spain said.

Medallions are the permits that allow a person to drive a taxi. There are fewer than 1,500 in The City and they can yield income of more than $5,000 monthly to their owners.

Bettencourt could not be reached at the Van Ness Avenue office Monday.

Newly appointed commission member Malcolm Heinicke, an attorney, said he was one of the four who decided to cancel the meeting scheduled for a day before July Fourth. The seven-member panel needs a majority of members to cancel a scheduled meeting.

“I had some things to do,” Heinicke said from his law firm office Monday. “I wanted to get some more information” about the commission before meeting.

The panel is slated to meet July 11 for its regularly scheduled meeting. Four votes would allow Machen to return as the executive director.

Machen said she hopes to get her job back.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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