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State investigating claims MTM ‘coerced’ taxi companies into breaking law

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is investigating claims that taxicab companies are operating illegally at the direction of the state’s non-emergency medical transportation provider, Medical Transportation Management, known as MTM.

The investigation comes in the wake of a complaint filed by Daniel Moriarty of Go Orange taxicab company in Newport. Moriarty alleges MTM conspired with taxi operators to regularly operate outside of their authorized territories and charge illegal rates.

“It is believed that MTM solicited, intimidated, and/or coerced taxicabs into committing these illegal acts… or risk losing any business provided by MTM on behalf of [the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services],” according to Moriarty’s petition for an investigation.

The R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers is now demanding MTM hand over data about every passenger trip completed by a taxicab company since it launched service in the state on Jan. 1, according to a letter obtained by Eyewitness News.

“In order for the division to ascertain whether any taxicab company has committed violations of territory restrictions and/or fare-calculation requirements, it must review pertinent records kept as a routine matter of businesses by MTM,” DPUC associate administrator Terrence Mercer wrote to MTM.

In response to questions about whether the company “coerced” taxicab companies into charging non-metered rates, MTM vice president of public affairs Phil Stalboeger said the company is working with the state to “deliver the best possible service at a good value for taxpayers.”

“We negotiate rates with each transportation provider based on the quality of their work and their service area,” he said.

A spokesperson for MTM also said the company is “working to fulfill DPUC’s information request and will provide the requested documents as soon as practicable.”

In addition to Moriarty’s claims to the DPUC, his company Go Orange levied similar allegations against MTM and asked EOHHS to investigate.

The company’s attorney, Russell Jackson, claims the volume of rides scheduled for his client by MTM steadily declined after Go Orange refused to accept flat fees rather than more lucrative metered rates.

“MTM is blatantly engaged in illegal activity in an effort to increase its profits at the expense of local licensed transportation providers,” Jackson argued in a Sept. 27 letter to EOHHS Secretary Womazetta Jones.

“Orange Cab will lose tens of thousands of dollars in [revenue] due to its refusal to violate state law and provide these transportation services at less than metered rates,” Jackson added.

EOHHS reviewed the issue, and found one taxi company had accepted a lower, unmetered rate, according to an Oct. 17 letter from agency attorney Jane Morgan to Jackson.

“MTM has indicated that it will continue to utilize Orange Cab as a transportation provider,” Morgan wrote. “They did, however, stress that due to the requirement that they first utilize and schedule the most cost-effective transportation providers, it is possible that Orange Cab’s [utilization] rates will go down.”

The letter also noted Rhode Island law allows taxicabs to seek permission to shut off meters when providing transportation services “paid for or coordinated by the state.”

“If your client is concerned about a possible reduction in [utilization,] they could perhaps work with MTM to seek an approval from the PUC for an alternative charge,” Morgan said. “This is however, a contractual issue that your client should directly discuss with MTM.”

MTM’s launch in Rhode Island was marked with thousands of complaints from people who reported late or missed rides to and from doctors appointments.

The R.I. House Oversight Committee conducted several hearings about the company’s operations. In March, the state fined MTM $1 million for the rocky rollout of service. 

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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