HILLSBOROUGH CO., FL - UPDATE: The PTC will hire an independent law firm to investigate the actions of executive director Kyle Cockream. Cockream will not be put on administrative leave, against the Hillsborough County Attorney's reccomendation.
You've heard all about Uber and Lyft's fight to stay in Tampa Bay. Now, Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission may be the ones fighting to stick around. Tuesday, the organization met to discuss its own integrity and future.
The PTC has made headlines over its stacked up rules for ridesharing companies. They’ve been ticketing Uber drivers for operating “illegally”, since the Lyft and Uber drivers aren’t following the same rules as taxi cab companies. They’ve also tried to enforce background checks, fingerprinting and minimum fares for the ride sharing services. Both companies have threatened to leave Tampa Bay because of the restrictions.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has called the PTC "a dinosaur" that needs to be "extinct" and Hillsborough County’s Attorney is considering cutting ties with the organization.
Now, the PTC’s future is up in the air.
Several Hillsborough County leaders are questioning the integrity and character of the Public Transportation Committee. Last year, a number of Tampa Bay-area lawmakers tried to get rid of the PTC, but failed to pass a bill.
10Investigates uncovered emails showing the same organization that has created one rule after the next for ridesharing companies, virtually forcing them out of Hillsborough County, had its executive director using off-duty taxicab drivers in PTC ridesharing stings.
That means as Uber and Lyft fight the PTC to keep operating, the transportation committee was coordinating with their competitors, the taxicab industry, to combat ridesharing companies.
Victor Crist, the chair of the PTC opened Tuesday's meeting by stating, “Our agency’s integrity has been compromised from the top down. The public have lost trust in our agency."
Several taxi cab and limo drivers spoke up during public comment, speaking in favor of both the PTC and its executive director Kyle Cockream. "This is a witchhunt," they exclaimed.
“Of course we are going to help catch the guys stealing our business,” one taxi cab driver stated.
"Uber and Lyft have been operating illegally. It is our moral obligation to assist in enforcing the law. If my neighbor's house was burning down, would it be wrong for me to help put out the fire and call 9-1-1?," another added.
The PTC poured through 12,000 emails made public from media requests.
They found the PTC executive director Kyle Cockream is in constant contact with Lou Minardi who is the President of the Yellow cab. Cockream shares inside information from the Hillsborough County attorney and a lobbyist with Minardi. Cockream also is accused of using off-duty cab and limo drivers to ticket Uber and Lyft drivers for operating illegally within Hillsborough County.
Mayor Buckhorn believes the relationship between the PTC and cab companies needs to be investigated.
“If there is collusion there, then I think people need to answer for that, but clearly the perception is that is very, very close, way too close in my estimation to the people that they’re regulating,” Buckhorn said.
State Representative Dana Young has formally requested the FDLE to investigate the relationship.
If the PTC no longer existed, ride sharing companies could operate freely.
The PTC argues they’ve made these regulations to keep you safe, so you aren’t getting behind the wheel with an untrustworthy person.
Tuesday’s meeting ended with a vote to put out a request for proposals for a law firm to independently review the PTC and the actions of its executive director.