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Bernard Koranteng was the focus of a Star investigation that revealed Toronto’s taxi licensing system only checks drivers’ records every four years. He told the Star Thursday that he’s a “safe” driver who has paid his debt to society.
Koranteng insisted his criminal convictions shouldn’t have resulted in him losing his job.
Koranteng, 57, had been driving a Beck taxi owned by Bozlul Kabir, who fired him Wednesday. Beck Taxi is a brokerage and doesn’t hire drivers directly. Cab drivers are independent operators who acquire a taxi licence then work for plate and car owners, like Kabir, who connect them with a particular brokerage.
Drivers are supposed to report criminal or highway traffic convictions to the city. Koranteng did not report his 2007 conviction for assaulting a female passenger, his 2005 conviction for dangerous driving and a 2002 conviction for threatening death.
If a driver’s record breaches what the city has defined as acceptable behaviours, it will contact the driver and inform him it intends to deny a new licence, revoke an existing licence or deny a renewal.
In Koranteng’s case, the city learned about his record through a public complaint and instructed him to attend a hearing before the tribunal. In 2008, lawyers for the city and Koranteng settled the case with a plea agreement approved by the tribunal. Koranteng was put on three years of probation and given a 10-day suspension.
Koranteng told the Star he has ferried thousands of women without incident in his 18 years as a taxi driver. He wouldn’t explain the assault on passenger Lori Slaunwhite and said he told his side of the story in court. “You don’t even know what happened,” he said.
Koranteng’s licence to drive a taxi expires on Aug. 14, 2013. City licensing chief Robertson said Koranteng will continue to hold his licence unless new information that violates the city’s standards is brought to their attention.
“He has been convicted of criminal charges, he should not be driving,” said Sajid Mughal, president of the iTaxiworkers Association, which counts as many as 800 Toronto taxi drivers among its membership, he said.
Mughal stressed that the vast majority of the approximately 10,400 drivers in the city are hard-working, reliable and safe. But he said “drivers who have been convicted of assault and sexual assault charges should not be behind the wheel serving the public.”
Though car owner Kabir let Koranteng go, there is no rule that prevents Koranteng from working for another car owner. Beck head office staff were not immediately available for comment on Koranteng’s dismissal.
For its investigation, the Star obtained five years of data on drivers and found that some drivers with convictions for sexual assault, assault, drunk driving and threatening death continued to hold a taxi licence.