Cabbies Accuse Cantrell’s Go-To Lawyers of Assisting Uber in Beating 37,000 Violations in 2018, Which May Have Cost the City More Than $33 Million

In typical David vs. Goliath fashion, in a Civil District Court filing on January 16, 2024, Sher Garner-  a politically connected firm favored by Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration and thought to be still on contract to represent her office – apparently ganged up against “the little guy” taxi cab drivers in 2018 to deep-six more than 37,000 violations against Uber and its affiliate Raiser LLC.

That same year Sher Garner represented Uber against the Cantrell administration as to the violations, including two attempts to reconcile them. The violations, if collected, represented more than $35 Million to city residents. Today Sher Garner continues to represent the Cantrell administration and also still represents Uber against the “little guys” in their claims against Uber, according to a “Motion to Disqualify Sher Garner” filed January 15, 2024 by lawyers for the cabbies.

Whether driven by greed or just powerful political connections, Sher Garner has been accused repeatedly of playing fast and loose with the Louisiana Ethics Laws. The cabbies say that Sher Garner can’t represent Uber against the City as to the alleged violations because they represent the city in other matters.

A more basic question might be where the city’s Legal Department is in this matter. The court filings from late last week also show that the cabbies have subpoenaed all Sher Garner’s billing records from the City of New Orleans for the time period of 2018 to the present. Interested parties are anxious to see what the records will show or if Sher Garner will fight to prevent their disclosure. Political observers believe that Sher Garner will oppose releasing any billings that were paid for work on behalf of Cantrell’s administration.

There has been push-back by the City Council in curtailing the Cantrell administration from contracting with Sher Garner. In January 2022, the City Council sought to disqualify Sher Garner from providing legal services to Cantrell’s disgraced former Executive Counsel, Clifton Davis, who was recently suspended from the practice of law, and now is referred to as Cantrell’s Executive Assistant.

In no apparent coincidence, Davis was a part of the negotiations team in 2018 as to the Uber violations. According to sources Davis had the authority to settle the dispute, which if collected would bring more than $35 Million into City coffers.  In depositions referred to in the cabbies’ filing last week and this week, Cantrell’s former Chief of Staff, who attended the negotiations, verified that the violations had been alleged as to Uber, with adequate proof.  Uber even took the deposition of the Deputy Director of Safety & Permits in an attempt to show the violations were not warranted.

Regardless, both Cantrell’s former Chief of Staff and others admitted that the violations currently still exist on the city’s books and that Uber still owes payment for these 2018 violations because they have never been adjudicated before an Administrative Court or settled with the City. Additionally Cantrell’s CAO Gilbert Montano- in deposition testimony by other witnesses who were under oath- was told twice about the pending violations.

Montano refused to be served for a deposition by the cabbies. Court records indicate Clifton Davis was served but has been unable to be reached. Attorneys for the cabbies asked the Court last week to issue an order appointing a special process server to locate and serve them again. Mayor Cantrell has again left New Orleans for another trip funded by taxpayers, and is not here to comment.

While the City of New Orleans is not a defendant in this litigation, Uber-Raiser is. The cabbies’ law suit alleges that Uber-Raiser conspired with certain high-ranking city officials and employees to obtain preferential treatment as well as “greasing” Uber and Raiser’s entrance into the New Orleans market. They further claim that the city leaders’ conduct put many of the cab companies and cabbies out of business.

If the cabbies can prove the Cantrell administration – assisted by staff- failed to collect fines for 37,000 violations worth $35 Million or more to city taxpayers, then this litigation has real meaning. If shown to be correct, Uber-Raiser did indeed receive preferential treatment from the city and certain employees. A review of the city’s One Stop website shows that the violations are still on the books. Lawyers for the cabbies are hell-bent on deposing Clifton Davis and Gilbert Montano. Their eventual testimony will surely spark additional conversations at many levels.

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