The public can now access records of bad taxi and tow truck drivers in Toronto.
Detailed records of hearings where drivers were convicted of sexual assault, multiple Highway Traffic Act convictions and other crimes are now posted on the City of Toronto’s website.
The documents were published following a Star investigation into the city’s licensing system that revealed the city’s policy of only checking criminal records every four years was allowing drivers with criminal convictions to remain on the road.
The city has since pledged to tighten the gap between criminal background checks to two years, possibly one.
Barry Randell, Toronto’s director of court services, acknowledges posting the decisions online is just one of the first steps in a broader plan to improve transparency.
In Toronto, any person who fights the city’s decision to revoke or deny the renewal of a taxi and several other types of business licences must appear before the civilian-staffed Toronto Licensing Tribunal.
The newly posted documents — called reasons for decisions — explain in detail why the city either renewed or denied a licence and why the tribunal upheld or rejected that decision.
So far these public decisions cover only 2012, with 2013 decisions expected to follow this summer. Randell said a city-ordered privacy assessment is preventing records prior to 2012 from being posted, but added that could change.
“That is going to be a conversation we have over the summer,” said Randell.
In April, following the Star investigation, Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker moved a motion directing licensing staff to investigate, among other issues, what information should go online. They will report back in September.
All tribunal records, including reasons for decisions prior to 2012, minutes and reports prepared by the city for tribunal members, are available at the East York Civic Centre, where the public can request them for a fee.
Toronto taxi drivers must produce a criminal background check and driving record when they first apply for a licence. After that, licence renewals are yearly, but as the Star found, drivers only have to submit a criminal record and driving check every four years.
In addition to taxi drivers, the licensing tribunal also oversees appeals for hotdog cart operators, tow trucks, body rub parlours, restaurants, driving instructors, builders and limousine drivers.
Most appeals are resolved through plea agreements, reached between a city lawyer and the licence holder’s lawyer. If a deal cannot be reached, a full hearing takes place before tribunal.
Two decisions now posted online detail the reasons why a taxi driver convicted of sexual assault lost his licence and why an owner of a mouse-infested hotdog cart kept hers.
In March 2012, the tribunal pulled taxi driver Mohammad Younas Choudhry off the road — seven years after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an intellectually challenged girl in his cab and four years after the city became aware of his 2005 conviction, the Star found.
In April 2012, the tribunal allowed Elisaveta Moskova, the owner of a fleet of hotdog carts cited for multiple health and safety violations — including a cart strewn with mouse droppings and dead rodents — to remain in business. Moskova did not operate the mouse-infested cart.
In a previous interview with the Star, tribunal chair Lionel Miskin said posting all decisions online would be “consistent with the kind of openness and transparency that is vital to a democratic society.”