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Uber driver: Harassment continues in Dewey


  • Uber driver: Harassment continues in Dewey

    Uber driver: Harassment continues in Dewey

    Photo by: Chris Flood Uber driver Harris Marx says Dewey Beach police officers continue to harass drivers of the ride-sharing service for not having a town business license despite multiple assurances from the town's top officials that it would stop.
    Dewey Beach — It’s been nearly a month since Uber driver Harris Marx first complained about aggressive enforcement measures in Dewey Beach, but things aren't getting any better, he said.

    “Nothing has changed, despite the meeting with the town manager and the police chief, and despite the apologies of the police chief,” wrote Marx in an email Aug. 24.

    Marx first complained after an Aug. 7 incident, in which he accused a Dewey police officer of bullying him and his customers. He said in an Aug. 10 letter to the Cape Gazette that he was aggressively questioned by a police officer, who asked if he had a Dewey Beach business license and told if he did not, he had to leave immediately.

    The following week, Marx spoke with Town Manager Marc Appelbaum about the incident, and, Marx said, he thought the situation was resolved after assurances from the town manager that, while Uber drivers should obtain town licenses, the measure would not immediately be enforced.

    According to Marx, the harassment has only gotten worse. In an email sent Aug. 16 to Appelbaum, Marx accused the police of stopping him Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, taking information and treating him poorly. He said one lieutenant argued about the business license at 2 a.m. in an autocratic, omnipotent and dictatorial way.

    “It was like he was acting as the town manager and council, and not acting as a law enforcement officer,” wrote Marx.

    This email spurred a face-to-face meeting Aug. 17 with Marx, Appelbaum and Dewey Police Chief Sam Mackert. Marx said he considered the issue put to rest following the meeting.

    There appeared to be a breakdown in communication between the town and the police department about how to handle the situation, wrote Marx.

    “From here on, the police will handle the situation differently,” Marx said. “They may stop an Uber driver and ask if he/she has a Dewey business license. If they don't have one, they will suggest that they get one and that's all they will say.”

    But Marx said even after the second meeting he was again bullied by an officer the night of Aug. 21.

    “You and the police chief’s word and apologies have little value,” he wrote to Appelbaum and Mackert in an Aug. 24 email to the two town officials. “It happened again.”

    Sgt. Cliff Dempsey, Dewey Beach spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the most recent issue because he wasn’t there. He said officers have been told to inform Uber drivers that if they don’t have a business license, they should go to town hall and get one.

    Dempsey also recommended drivers contact the police department immediately if they think an officer harassed them.

    Appelbaum said his position remains the same as it did when Marx complained the first time. He said he thinks Uber drivers should get a business license, but, he continued, he’s not going to enforce the matter until after the commissioners have had a chance to address the issue in the fall.

    Appelbaum said it’s not about the money; it’s about safety. More than 100 of the $109-licenses were issued by the town to taxi, limousine and pedicab services since April 1.

    He said a fee, and the associated documentation, is a way to know who is doing business in the town.

    Under a memorandum of understanding signed by Uber and the state in June, Uber drivers, and other ride-sharing service providers, are required to obtain a valid business license from the state, which costs $45 for taxi services.

    Kelly Bachman, press secretary for Gov. Jack Markell, said the memorandum did not address local business licenses because those requirements differ from town to town, but, she added, the state does notify anyone who applies for a state license that there may be other requirements and provides them with links to all municipal websites where they can find the needed information.

    “Obviously, the state expects that all drivers for Uber should pay all local taxes and license fees that are due and owing,” said Bachman.

    Appelbaum said there are a lot of other Uber drivers in town, some of whom have bought licenses, and to his knowledge no one else is complaining.

    By Chris Flood | Aug 28, 2015
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