PUC targets free Aspen taxi service

Wyatt Haupt Jr.
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” A state agency is demanding that local cabbie Phil Sullivan immediately shut down his free taxi service in Aspen, largely because he is alleged to be operating the business illegally.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission alleges in a complaint that Sullivan, 73, was found to have violated its regulations on Feb. 26, with the second incident occurring Feb. 27.

Sullivan “has operated and continues to operate as an interstate motor vehicle carrier for the transportation of passengers … without the proper authority issued by the commission,” the complaint alleges. Furthermore, Sullivan is operating the business “without evidence of the required financial responsibility.”

The complaint stems from an affidavit filed by criminal investigator Monita Pacheco, who is employed by the commission. She used the taxicab service on two nights with each pickup point being in front of Bentley’s on South Mill Street.

Each time Pacheco said she asked Sullivan to drive or take “me to the Inn at Aspen.” At the end of the first trip the investigator said she “placed a ten dollar bill on the console of the vehicle, thanked [Sullivan] and exited. [Sullivan] made no objection to return the ten dollar gratuity.”

The second trip ended in much the same manner.

Sullivan said Thursday he remembered giving the investigator a ride on both nights. He said she “never identified herself.”

Sullivan also said he was in possession of the complaint that was adopted April 29 and mailed to him April 30, according to the commission. He has until May 20 to file a response with the commission.

“I got it about two days ago. I don’t know what I am going to do about it,” said Sullivan, who added he plans to continue operating the service.

The cab, a white Kia passenger van, is generally on the streets of Aspen nightly from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. The van usually has a lighted sign on its roof billing its free taxi rides.

The complaint marks the second time Sullivan has ran afoul of the commission. On Nov. 27, 2007, he was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $12,100 for operating the cab service without “property authority or evidence of financial responsibility.”

Sullivan has not paid the fine. However, when he received his business license from the city of Aspen in January he had to provide proof of insurance.