Judge dismisses airport cab lawsuits against Charlotte

A judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits by taxicab operators alleging that Charlotte’s airport taxi contract was tainted by a “pay-to-play” scheme.

Cab companies that didn’t get a new airport contract in 2011 have said for years that the process was corrupt. But Judge Louis Bledsoe’s ruling deals a fresh setback to their case.

“The decision to dismiss these two lawsuits is a victory for the city of Charlotte,” City Attorney Bob Hagemann said in a statement. “It has been our contention all along that the City Council’s decision was lawful and appropriate.”

The lawsuits were one of the last vestiges of scandal surrounding former Mayor Patrick Cannon, who is serving a 44-month federal sentence after pleading guilty to taking bribes.

The owners of Universal Cab and Diamond Cab filed the lawsuit after Cannon’s arrest, asserting a long-running conspiracy to trade the lucrative airport contracts for campaign donations to Cannon and the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, a lobbying group.

In his dismissal, Bledsoe said the City Council made an “independent, legal and valid” decision to reduce from 12 to 3 the number of cab companies allowed to pick up customers at the airport. The city, which oversees Charlotte Douglas International Airport, has said the cab decision was made to improve service and standards at the airport.

Universal Cab owner Mohamed Moustafa said he plans to appeal the ruling.

“I will never stop in this case until the reality of this case comes out,” he said.

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