Even though it could have been handled better, an off-duty cabdriver's refusal to carry Minnesota Twins superstar Dave Winfield and his wife on July 17 was not improper, the state
Public Service Commission ruled yesterday.
"I'm pleased with the dismissal of the complaint," said Lee Klavans, the attorney that represented the cabdriver, Alexander Barmak. But he declined to comment on whether the incident could been handled better, as the decision suggests. "I really have nothing to say," he said.
Attempts to contact the Winfields were not successful.
Tonya T. Winfield, wife of the black baseball player, filed a complaint last summer with the Public Service Commission (PSC) charging that Mr. Barmak had refuse to give her, her husband and relatives a ride near Oriole Stadium at Camden Yards. But moments later the cab picked up several white men.
"Needless to say, we were quite disturbed at the racial overtones to that entire incident," Ms. Winfield said in her July 26 letter to the PSC.
Mr. Barmak, said that he was not working at the time and had an "Off Duty" sign in his windshield. The men he picked up were his brother and friends, who had just gone to the baseball game with him, Mr. Barmak said.
A hearing was held on Nov. 9 to determine if Mr. Barmak violated the state law requiring on-duty cabdrivers to transport all orderly passengers. The hearing was attended by Mr. Barmak and his attorney, but neither of the Winfields was present.
"Ms. Winfield's perception that the refusal to provide service was a racial snub is understandable," said hearing officer David L. Moore in his ruling. "Mr. Barmak, as an owner and experienced driver, should be aware that the off-duty operation of his taxicab can potentially subject him to this kind of complaint if he does not make clear to potential passengers that he is not providing service," the decision said.
"A more thoughtful handling of this incident could have avoided this complaint," Mr. Moore wrote. "That aside, however, there does not appear that there was an unjustified refusal to provide service."