City takes action against Broadway Cab and three of its taxi drivers

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Portland cab company has been slapped with fines, a taxi driver's permit has been revoked and two other taxi drivers have been fined in connection with two incidents - one involving a same-sex couple and another involving a blind woman and her service dog.

Broadway Cab has been in a bit of hot water in the past few weeks.

First, two women claimed they were left on the side of Interstate 84 because they were being affectionate with each other.

The couple, Kate Neal and Shanko Devoll, said it all started when they were trying to be responsible by taking a cab home after a night out with friends. But they said the cab ride was anything but pleasant.

"I guess he discovered that we were a couple," Neal told KATU in late July following the incident. "We were showing some affection towards each other. And he started shouting some pretty hurtful and homophobic things. And then he proceeded to pull over on the freeway and let us out of the cab."

"I didn't realize at first what was happening, but the more he yelled, the more clear it became," Neal added.

"When he initially pulled over I said 'I do want to get out of this cab, but I don't want to get out of this cab here," Neal said. "And he would not move farther. We had no choice."

So they got out of the cab - a few miles from home - and were left there alone and in the dark. They said they had every intention of paying their fare, but didn't.

"We were planning to pay for a cab ride home - that's why we called a cab," said Neal.

The couple said that a second Broadway Cab showed up, they got in and then that driver kicked them out after speaking with the other driver.

At that point, they had to walk. Instead of heading along I-84 with cars and trucks whizzing by, they decided to climb an embankment and scale a fence.

The women said they made it to Northeast 102nd Avenue and flagged down an officer. They said the police officer told them that he had actually been looking for them - that he had been dispatched to find two women who had skipped out on their cab fare.

"He picked us up and called the cab company and told them that we were not to pay the fare and that he was going to take us home," said Neal. "And he did - he drove us home."

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The two women hired a civil-rights attorney and are seeking legal action.

"If I were that passenger, I would want to make sure that driver never drove me anywhere again," said Nicholas Yanchar, the couple's attorney. "And if I were Broadway, I would never want that driver in my fleet again."

The City of Portland, which oversees taxi service in town, got involved as well and issued their determination this week. They are fining Broadway Cab for failing to adhere to city code that requires taxi companies to provide reasonably prompt service to passengers.

And the driver who was involved in the incident, Ahmed Egal, has had his tax driver permit revoked for failing to directly and safely take taxi passengers to their desired destination, which the city said constitutes a threat to public safety and convenience. He was already under suspension.

The cab driver has claimed that the two women were intoxicated and did not want to pay. Audio from a 9-1-1 call appears to support that statement.

Egal called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher "these people are really, really drunk - they want to jump out of the car."

The dispatcher responded by asking the driver if he could get off the freeway and stop so his passengers could get out safely.

Egal responded with "right now, they told me to keep going - keep going."

At one point during the phone call, the driver sounds panicked and tells the dispatcher "these people, they've opened the door... I'm going to pull off to the side of 84."

After stopping the cab, Egal told the dispatcher "no - they jumped out onto the freeway! They're going to kill themselves here."

Neal and Devoll have claimed from the beginning that the cab driver made false claims to police.

"We thought the 9-1-1 call told a really different tale than the original story that had come out," said Raye Miles, president and general manager of Broadway Cab. "I don't believe we are to the heart of the issue yet. We may never know what happened in that cab, but we were reaching a different conclusion, I think."

Miles said she is disappointed with the city's decision, but also said the company will use this as a learning opportunity.

In another incident, a blind woman said a Broadway Cab driver refused her service because she had a seeing-eye dog with her.

Deb Marinos is a regular Amtrak rider who commutes to work in Salem and Portland. She also travels the country to conferences and legislative assemblies in her job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Oregon Council of the Blind.

Marinos said she had gotten off a train at Union Station and was trying to get to OHSU for a scheduled checkup when she was refused service by two different cab drivers.

"And he says 'No, she has a dog. I'm not takin' her, but he already had the fare," Marinos told KATU earlier this month when we talked to her following the incident. "I'm not takin' her. No dogs. Dogs aren't allowed by the company."

Marinos said a second taxi, Sassy Cab (a subsidiary of Broadway Cab) also refused to let her get in with her dog.

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The City of Portland has fined Broadway Cab $500 for failing to provide reasonably prompt service to Marinos. Two drivers - Aram Ambaryan and Hamlet Galstyan - have also been fined $1,250 each. The drivers' taxi driving permits were not revoked.

KATU Reporter Erica Nochlin contributed to this report.