Independent cab companies sue Radio Cab, city for alleged airport monopoly

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Seven independent taxi companies have filed suit against Augusta's largest cab company, Radio Cab, and the city of Augusta.

They want damages for what they call a 20-year monopoly at the airport.

The lawsuit claims the Airport Commission, the consolidated government, and Radio Cab are all responsible for supporting an illegal monopoly.

"We tried to do this in a reasonable way, in an honest fashion, and nobody listened," says Mark Lavigne of USA Cab Company. "Now it's just going to go to court."

Lavigne is one of seven independent taxi service owners suing the city and Radio Cab among others for what they're calling a 20-year monopoly.

"We need justice," he says. "We got independent cab companies that are struggling right now with no access to the airport, it's been like that for twenty years."

The lawsuit filed in superior court Tuesday, June 6 claims the city violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by allowing Radio Cab to hold an exclusive contract to do business at Augusta Regional Airport.

"We have a contract with the city," says David Fields, owner of Radio Cab. "If the city only wants to give it to one company, that's up to the city. I don't make the rules for the contract."

Fields had not seen the lawsuit until News 12 showed him. He says it's frivolous, and maintains there is nothing illegal about the contract.

"I think that everybody's jealous of business people have and they try to want to bet a piece of your business," he says.

In March, right before the Masters, independent cab companies took their concerns to the Airport Commission, claiming the exclusive contract was not fair.

The Airport Commission decided not to renew that contract with Radio Cab when it ends June 30.

But the independent companies say after twenty years of wrong, the right changes should have made been made immediately. Now they say those responsible should have to pay.

"We want damages," says Lavigne. "In the beginning maybe we wouldn't have asked for damages."

And while the Augusta Commission is also named in the suit, some city leaders are speaking out and others remaining tight-lipped about yet another lawsuit.

"Due to the fact that it's pending litigation, I won't comment to that lawsuit directly," says Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver.

"This is the result of things done wrong," says Commissioner Marion Williams. "People are not going to sit back and allow them to treat them any kind of way."

The lawsuit also claims former sheriff Webster and Sheriff Ronnie Strength knew about an illegal video gambling operation at Radio Cab.

The plaintiffs claim money from the gambling was donated to city leaders--which they say enabled Radio Cab to keep the contract.

Radio Cab officials says nothing illegal was going on, and Sheriff Strength says the claims are "ridiculous".

One of the plaintiffs tells News 12 there is video to prove this was going on--video they plan to bring out in court.