State fines Aspen taxi company
ASPEN ” An Aspen entrepreneur, apparently trying to pick up some business in October, may end up having to eat $49,500 instead.
That’s how much the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has fined Aspen/Snowmass Express, owned and operated by Michael Buysse.
The PUC alleges that Aspen/Snowmass Express ferried passengers to The Aspen Institute, during its inaugural Aspen Health Forum, with no insurance and no commercial-carrier license. Buysse also didn’t allegedly file his proof of insurance with the PUC, which is the state’s governing body for ground transportation, PUC spokeswoman Barbara Fernandez said Thursday.
Buysse was served with the ticket on Dec. 3. A PUC hearing on the matter was scheduled for Dec. 19 in Denver, but the issue has been deferred to an administrative law judge, Fernandez said. A future hearing date has not been set.
The PUC’s clamp-down on Buysse comes nearly one year after it went after another alleged rogue taxi driver in Aspen, Phil Sullivan. Sullivan has been ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in fines to the PUC for not having the proper insurance to operate a taxi service.
That hasn’t stopped him. Sullivan, whose KIA minivan has an illuminated sign declaring “free taxi” on the roof, continues to haul passengers around Aspen. The PUC claims he takes under-the-table tips instead of charging a fare. Sullivan maintained Thursday he would not pay the fine.
As for Aspen/Snowmass Express, the PUC alleges that it operated illegally on the days of Oct. 3, 4, 5, 6 at The Aspen Institute campus. That’s when the Institute held the Aspen Health Forum, in which Nobel Prize winners, scientists and doctors gathered to the future of biomedicine and health.
Aspen/Snowmass Express actually faces 12 fines ” three for each day the maverick shuttle service was in business.
The lack of insurance is the stiffest penalty, with fines of $11,000 per day. The carrier’s alleged failure to operate with a license resulted in fines of $1,000 per day, and its alleged failure to file proof of insurance with the PUC cost it $275 per day, Fernandez said.
Fernandez added that had the fines been paid earlier, they would have been cut in half.
“If he had paid the fines within 10 days of issuance of the citation, [the fines] would have been $24,750,” she said.
According to his website, Buysse is a real estate agent and property manager, among other occupations. His website says he “has been one of the most regarded entrepreneurs of the Aspen community for many years. His name has become synonymous with excellent service and attention to detail.”
Buysse started Aspen/Snowmass Express in the 1992 until the PUC revoked his license in 2004. Records with the Colorado Secretary of State show that it dissolved in 2003, before Buysse reinstated it in October 2005. And on Dec. 13 ” 10 days after the PUC ticketed him ” Buysse filed his annual report, keeping his company in good graces with the Colorado Secretary of State.
Buysse did not return telephone messages left Thursday at his Aspen office.
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