HOH’s One-Minute Recess: Final Countdown, No. 2

Posted December 30, 2010 at 10:56am

From a Congressman refusing to pay his cab fare to a certain staffer misusing a listserv, 2010 was a good year for gossip. As the year winds down, HOH will count down our top 10 items of the year. We’ve sifted through dozens of columns and found the most salacious, titillating and hilarious gossip of the year.

In our No. 2 spot is a disagreement over a cab fare between Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and a D.C. taxi driver.

“Taxicab-gate” From July 14:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is fighting back against claims made by a D.C. taxicab driver who says the New York Democrat refused to pay his fare following a dispute Tuesday over the cost, saying the driver broke taxicab regulations.

Cab driver Abraham Habteab told Fox 5 News he picked Nadler up at Union Station on Tuesday and drove him to a hotel in Southeast. Nadler asked Habteab to wait while he dropped off his luggage and then take him to Capitol Hill.

At the hotel, Habteab asked Nadler to pay $8 for the first leg of the trip, saying he’d reset the cab’s meter for the second leg. But Nadler balked at the suggestion, contending the cabbie shouldn’t reset the meter and that he’d pay him upon arrival on the Hill.

A dispute ensued, which resulted in Nadler taking another cab without paying Habteab at all.

But Nadler tells HOH it was Habteab who broke the law.

Nadler confirms he got into the cab at Union Station and asked Habteab to drop him off on Capitol Hill, stopping briefly at the hotel.

“I advised the driver, Mr. Habteab, that I would be out of the cab for 30 seconds or so, and requested that he leave the meter running in accordance with DC taxi regulations,” Nadler says in a statement. “Mr. Habteab then ignored DC taxi regulations and refused to take me to my final destination without restarting the meter.”

Nadler adds: “This is against the law, and Taxi Commission Chairman Leon Swain has clarified that point to me personally in a letter, which I shared with Mr. Habteab, but which he refused to read. Today, I spoke personally with Chairman Swain, who has confirmed that I was correct in relying on his interpretation of the law as stated in the letter.”

Nadler said he got into the second cab because Habteab didn’t obey the law.

“Of course taxi drivers have rights, but so do passengers,” Nadler says. “I am working with the Taxicab Commission and Mr. Habteab to ensure that he receives the correct payment, despite his misinterpretation of the law.”

Nadler, who says Tuesday’s cab route is his routine when he arrives in Washington, inquired about whether a passenger needs to pay two fares for a brief stop to drop off luggage in an October 2009 e-mail to Swain.

Swain replied by copying into the body of the e-mail a section of the taxicab regulations that state the total fare should not exceed $19 for trips “originating and ending and with all stops en route in the District of Columbia.”

“In short, you should be able to make the trip you described to me without the meter being restarted regardless of the direction of travel,” Swain writes.