FAIRMONT - Fairmont City Council recently voted unanimously to do away with a limit on the number of taxi licenses in town, but on Monday the council was split on whether to approve the first application received since City Code was amended.
Verdine Craig-Wright applied for the taxi license, but her past performance as a cab operator raised questions. Going against the recommendation of staff, the council voted 3-2 in favor of approving Craig-Wright's application.
The reason staff recommended denying her application is because of two prior convictions against Craig-Wright, who operated a taxi company in Fairmont until her license was pulled. She pleaded guilty in 2011 to operating a taxi without insurance and then pleaded guilty to operating a taxi without a license, explained city administrator Mike Humpal.
"Do we really want to issue a license to someone who operated without proper insurance and then without a license at all?" Humpal asked.
Councilman Darin Rahm was adamant Craig-Wright should get another chance. After all, he said, the city has not denied licenses to businesses that failed to ask for identification from minors purchasing tobacco or alcohol.
"She knows now," he said. "... And I don't think we should deny a license based on past performance."
Staff, including City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist, stressed that City Code is clear in its regulations about insurance.
When questioned about the driving violations, Craig-Wright said she lapsed on her insurance because she was having financial difficulties at that time.
"My insurance is paid for the whole year," she told the council. "It's all covered, completely."
As for driving a taxi without a license: "Someone called for a ride, and they sounded desperate," said Craig-Wright, acknowledging that she should have said no, but she was taught by her missionary parents to help people and she has now learned she can't always do that.
Voting in favor of approving the license application were Rahm, Harlan Gorath and Andy Lucas. Dissenting were Wes Clerc and Joe Kallemeyn.