Sultan Sultan is appealing a city staff bid to revoke his licence in a dispute over rates charged.TEVIAH MORO, Special to The Free Press 2004-01-29 03:37:57
The operator of a controversial limousine service on the brink of losing its licence was granted a reprieve by board of control yesterday. At least 12 drivers for Allaround Limousines watched as controllers heard evidence in owner Sultan Sultan's appeal of a city staff recommendation to revoke his limo broker's licence.
"The future of my kids and family, and all these guys with me, is just relying on this outcome," a tearful Sultan, president of Allaround Limousines, said while waiting for a board decision.
The upstart minivan service has irked competing cab and limousine companies since April 2003 by charging lower rates than stipulated in a city bylaw for limo-vans.
The bylaw states limo-vans must charge a rate of $30 for the first hour or part of an hour, which is less than that of executive limousines such as Checker.
The city has laid 12 charges against Allaround Limousine drivers for not charging the proper rate.
Sultan told controllers he didn't know his company was breaking the bylaw even after months of operation.
He said when he received his licence in April 2003, he told the clerk's office his drivers would be charging zone rates.
The zone rate, used by executive limousines, is $6 for the first zone and $3 for each additional zone.
But city officials testified at the hearing Sultan received a letter sent to all limo drivers explaining the bylaw as it applied to limousine services.
The clerk's office didn't approve of his rates either, said Michelle Smibert, manager of licensing and elections for the city clerk's office.
"At no time did our office make any approval of the rates," Smibert said.
Ed Corrigan, Sultan's lawyer, said the misunderstanding was a product of errors made at the city clerk's office and not his client's fault.
Officials indicated they approved Allaround's rate structure by granting the company several licences, Corrigan said.
"The rate structure was attached to the licence, it was accepted by the city. They issued not one but at least 20 licences based on this fee schedule."
The company's minivans, which carry fewer passengers than regular vans, don't fall under any of the bylaw's categories, Corrigan added.
"It's clear that this bylaw has to be updated to accommodate minivans."
Allaround Limousine driver Kamal Abdelmagie, 36, said in an interview he's not sure what he'll do if the company loses its licence.
"I need $2,000 to feed my kids. I work for 15 hours, six days a week," Abdelmagie said.
Board of control will meet again in two weeks for further clarification of the issues, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said.
"That will give us the ability to move forward with an appeal or not,"DeCicco said.
With the future of his company in limbo, Sultan said he won't accept a revocation.
"If they do revoke my licence, there's going to be a big lawsuit," he said.