Investigation Finds Improprieties in Development of Proposed Uber Ordinance

Report faults city staff for handling of proposal that would ban popular car service phone app

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Thursday, Oct 24, 2013  |  Updated 5:14 AM CDT
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The Dallas mayor's investigation into the handling of the Uber car service at City Hall was released Wednesday. While nothing illegal was found, some question why the report was presented in a closed meeting.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

The Dallas mayor's investigation into the handling of the Uber car service at City Hall was released Wednesday. While nothing illegal was found, some question why the report was presented in a closed meeting.

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Dallas city staff mishandled proposed regulations for a popular car service phone application, according to an investigation conducted for the mayor.

Mayor Mike Rawlings asked former District Attorney Bill Hill to review how a proposed ordinance to ban Uber wound up on the Aug. 28th consent agenda without any prior City Council discussion.

Consent items are typically routine issues that pass without debate. Several council members objected to the Uber regulations that day, and the matter was delayed.

The investigation found nothing illegal but cited improprieties.

"I believe several wrong decisions and bad judgments were made throughout this process," Rawlings said.

Customers summon rides from Uber cars through a smartphone app that also bills the rider’s credit card. The service has gained a loyal following.

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Operators of taxi companies, which charge fares by meters and operate under strict city regulation, say Uber is an unlicensed, unfair competitor.

Hill's investigation found that Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez overreached his authority by placing the item banning Uber on the consent agenda.

The mayor said he is "highly disappointed" in Gonzalez's actions.

Gonzalez issued an apology this week for his conduct in the Uber issue.

But the mayor's investigation also faulted city attorneys along with Gonzalez and other city staff for guiding the proposed Uber regulations.

"They were not fully aware of those dynamics and what the voice of the citizens in this matter was," Rawlings said. "And, furthermore, this small group of city individuals believed they alone could solve this problem. That judgment was naïve."

The investigation confirmed that an attorney for Yellow Cab helped write the proposed rules that would eliminate Uber competition.

The NBC 5 Investigates team earlier uncovered a trail of City Hall email from Yellow Cab urging city officials to take action against Uber.

Undercover police officers gave Uber drivers citations.

"It creates an after-the-fact perception that one private company was getting too much influence at City Hall," Rawlings said.

The mayor's investigation report was delivered to the City Council in a closed-door executive session Wednesday.

Councilmen Scott Griggs and Phillip Kingston unsuccessfully tried to have the results presented in session open to the public.

The rest of the council voted for the executive session based on personnel discussion or advice from attorneys that might occur at the meeting.

The mayor released the report afterward. Click here for Part 1 (.pdf) of the report | Part 2 (.pdf)

"We love new business in Dallas, and we want to attract as many new and different types of business, but we live in the rule of law, and we’re going to do that in a lawful manner," Rawlings said.

The Dallas City Council Transportation Committee will now review what regulations may be in order for Uber.

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