Officials at Charlotte Douglas International are examining if they should continue to allow just three taxi companies sole rights to pick up passengers at the airport. This after renewed charges a pay-to-play scheme determined those slots. But the airport may have no choice but to extend the controversial contract.
That contract has been in effect since 2011 and it’s been renewed annually – pretty much on autopilot, says Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle. "I agree with that assessment. We are happy with the contract and we’re happy with the contractors."
But Cagle adds, "We are not happy there is this perception of some kind of wrongdoing or undue influence from the former mayor or the HTA in this process."
The alleged pay-to-play scheme involves Patrick Cannon and Mohammad Jenatian, the head of the greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, or HTA.
Cagle doesn’t believe those two men had any influence on the original contract. Nor does he believe the allegations. Still, the council has asked City Manager Ron Carlee to review the taxi contract. However, Carlee says his deep dig into the issue is on hold for a bit. "We will not be doing anything of an investigatory nature until we know the federal investigation is completed. We do not want to interfere with their investigation."
But Cagle and his staff likely don’t have time to wait for either investigation to take place before they make a decision on renewal. The contract between the three taxi companies and the airport stipulates 60 days notice to any changes in the agreement, which runs out in mid July. That means they have just three weeks to make a decision. Cagle says that timeframe is challenging. Especially since the last change in the contract took six months.
But they do have options. These include a short term extension of the taxi contract, of say, six months to buy time for the investigations to take place. They could end the contract and allow any cab company to pick up passengers at the airport. Cagle worries that last option would hurt quality control of taxis at the airport, which was the overall rationale for the contract in the first place. And finally, they could renew the contract for another year – given the time constraints they may have no other choice.