Taxi Drivers Will Face Strict Scrutiny

Before being issued a town taxi license, drivers and principals in taxi companies will be vetted by state and town officials

    Taxi drivers in East Hampton Town will be fingerprinted and checked for criminal convictions under a new law passed last Thursday.

    Before being issued a town taxi license, drivers and principals in taxi companies will be vetted by state and town officials.

    Should an applicant have a prior conviction, following a review by the state Criminal Justice Services division, a decision will be made by the town clerk, town attorneys, and town police as to whether a license should be issued. State law prohibits unfair discrimination against previously convicted offenders, specifying that a license or employment may only be denied if there is a “direct relationship” between the criminal offense and the specific license or job, or where approval of a license would “involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”

    Several criteria, outlined in state law, will be considered, among them the time elapsed since the criminal offense, its seriousness, and the age of the applicant at the time it occurred. Information regarding a previous offender’s “rehabilitation and good conduct” will also be considered. Those denied licenses will be able to appeal to the town’s Licensing Review Board.

    The requirement for annual fingerprinting can be waived by the town clerk.

    The town board held a hearing on the law on May 1. The board also amended the town code to include a taxi office among the “home occupations” allowed in a residence. A home-based taxi operation may not include dispatching, storage, repair, washing, or maintenance of taxis.

    A second code change allows a taxi office — again without taxi parking or dispatching — to be part of an office complex without being considered an additional use of the site under the zoning code.