Francoise had been near the top of The List for a long time but the changeover from the Taxi Commission to the SFMTA forced her to wait for an extra year to become eligible for a medallion. The grace and good humor that she showed under the uncertainty and stress of the situation impressed everyone who met her. Director Christiane Hayashi even made Francoise something of a poster child to represent people who have a legitimate expectation of getting a medallion from the waiting list
Finally Francoise's number came up and she handed in her paperwork which included waybills proving that she had worked from between 1,497 to 2,370 during every one of the last five years. She'd also already put in 1,127 hours by June of this year. Of course this is far more than the required 800 hours. So Taxi Services inspectors then certified her qualifications.
On August 13th, Francoise showed up at the medallion hearing with her daughter and some friends, ready to celebrate. Instead she was humiliated by hearing officer Eugene Chin who asked several personal questions that were unrelated to taxi driving and then continued the hearing for up to three weeks so that he could verify the authenticity of her unsigned waybills.
People attending the hearing were shocked and amazed by the outcome. Barry Korengold described himself as "agasp." (See his letter.)
Francoise herself described the attitude of Mr. Chin as assuming that she was "guilty until proved innocent. She also told me yesterday that she was experiencing a great deal of emotional strain and distress.
Driver Eric Hatten, who attended the hearing, wrote me saying,
"This obsession with hand written waybills must stop. They are an imperfect document never meant to decide the fate of drivers. They were created to be a record the police department could access in case there was a crime committed involving a driver or passenger. If you nit pick every waybill, mistakes are always going to be found. These are documents recorded by hand, often while a driver is under the stress of picking up a passenger in the middle of a busy intersection or other less than ideal situations."
I'd like to add that the requirements for filling out a waybill have changed over the years. Every new taxi administration seems to have its own rules and drivers have rarely been properly informed as how the waybills should be filled out.
I discussed the subject of how to improve the hearing process so that an injustice like this doesn't happen again with Chris Hayashi.
She said that, while she wasn't free to comment on any individual case, she is talking to the hearing officers about procedures such as:
- Under what circumstances they should ask for additional information.
- When a hearing should or should not be continued.
- About conditional acceptance of waybills that aren't filled out perfectly.
She would like me to ask you all to send her a few questions along with the answers. She also would like to ask the drivers to distinguish if these are things that day drivers or night drivers are more likely to know. For instance, day drivers are more likely to know hospitals and night drivers are more likely to know bars.
Director Hayashi also pointed out that once we get electronic waybills most of the problems with the hearings will disappear.
In the meantime, Francoise waits and agonizes.