We broke the news yesterday that one of the three companies that Phoenix is preparing to contract with for cab service at Sky Harbor, Visum Investments, has serious problems with its proposal: Its references don't check out, and its general manager's resume appears to be inaccurate.
Today we're discovering a potential problem with a second company, Apache Taxi -- a problem that suggests Apache also may have given inaccurate information to the city. And thanks to what we're learning, it appears possible -- though we can't prove it yet -- that Apache also doesn't actually qualify under Phoenix's requirements.
City staff wrote their request for proposals, or RFP, so that winning companies were chosen based on how much they were willing to pay. Companies offered as much as $19,777 per cab for the rights to pick up passengers at Sky Harbor.
But the city also mandated, wisely, that companies employ a general manager with at least three years' experience running a fleet of at least 20 vehicles.
Based on our research, Visum's general manager doesn't have that. But now, we're learning that it's possible Apache's general manager doesn't have that either.
In a resume submitted to the city as part of Apache's proposal, the company's owner, Abbas Naini, says he has eleven years' experience running a fleet of 23+ vehicles.
But according to the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, which regulates taxis here, Naini's company has just 13 taxis. And he doesn't have another company.
What explains the discrepancy?
According to notes from the city we obtained through a public records request, Naini told the city that in addition to his new startup, Apache, he also operates a company called Taxi Express/Sedan Express -- and that it has 17 cabs and three limos in its fleet.
The city claims it checked this out with Department of Weights and Measures. But according to the records we recently obtained from the department, neither Taxi or Sedan Express are currently in operation.
Apparently department records show that Taxi Express used to be in business, but isn't anymore. Its most recent mention of Taxi Express apparently indicates that, back in 2007, Taxi Express had just five taxis.
So has Naini ever managed a fleet bigger than 13 taxis? He told the city he did -- but those claims appear, at minimum, to be more complicated than he led the staff to believe. Naini hasn't returned several calls for comment, including one this morning, so if there's an innocent explanation, we're still waiting to hear it.
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Still, the city clerk tells us that the taxi contracts are still slated for the council's approval this afternoon.
LaMonte K. Jackson works for Discount Cab, which stands to lose rights to airport cab service under the new contracts. He's repeatedly called for the city to take a hard look at the new proposals -- a call he seconded when I reached him this morning.
"Does the city want these kind of individuals who are not giving them truthful information to be interacting with the public?" he asks. "They're making a huge mistake."
We'll see what happens this afternoon. Stay tuned ...