Investigation launched after taxi president ejects family following dispute
An investigation is under way after the taxi operators president ejected a family of tourists, including a baby, from his vehicle.
A complaint has been made about the conduct of Dennis Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association, after the incident.
It is understood that a couple travelling with their child in his taxi wanted Mr Furbert to turn up the air conditioning. He acknowledged there was a dispute about the temperature inside the vehicle but explained that he ejected them from the car after they refused to wear face masks.
Government regulations stipulate that masks be worn when travelling in enclosed public transport vehicles, including taxis.
Mr Furbert said: “I had the AC on but they said it wasn’t cold enough. I said in hot weather it takes time to cool down. I don’t know why they were making an issue about the AC – that wasn’t the issue.
“I wasn’t watching them when they got in the taxi but [during the journey], when I looked in the mirror and saw they weren’t wearing masks, I said they needed to put on their masks.
“They said they were in the back so I pulled over and they said they didn’t have any. I offered them masks but they said they didn’t want to wear them. They said, ‘we will call the police’, I said ‘don’t call the police, I will take you to them’.”
Mr Furbert took the family to Somerset Police Station free of charge. He said he stood by his decision to eject the mother, father and baby despite the hot weather outside.
He added: “The mask is mandatory, hot weather or not – no mask, no gas. I said you are in someone else’s country, abide by the rules and there wouldn’t be a problem. I stand by my decision.”
Mr Furbert, who is also a board member for the Public Service Vehicles Licensing Board, said he would continue working in his capacity as BTOA president and PSVLB member while the investigation was active.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport said: “On August 10, 2022, the Transport Control Department received a formal complaint about the conduct of the driver of T1242 on July 5, 2022.
“The matter will be investigated and then referred to the Public Service Vehicles Licensing Board. The board has statutory powers to address the conduct of a taxi operator under section 33 of the Motor Car Act 1951.”
The BTOA confirmed that the driver of vehicle T1242 is Mr Furbert, the organisation’s president.
A spokeswoman for the BTOA said: “The BTOA understands that the tourists were removed because they refused to wear a mask, not because of the AC.
"We do not wish to add any more details of what occurred during the incident. There will not be any change to the function and structure of the association. We do not wish to comment further."
The Bermuda Police Service said no report was made to them in relation to the incident.
A police spokesman said: “We've been advised the taxi driver transported the family to the Somerset Police Station at no cost.
“The matter was discussed among the parties involved and it was agreed that the visiting family would take another taxi to their destination.
“An officer assisted by calling for the taxi, which the visitors subsequently boarded and were taken to their destination. Again, this is not a criminal matter and is not being pursued by the BPS.”
A meeting was recently held by the PSVLB when the matter was raised by Mr Furbert. Another PSVLB meeting is due to be held tomorrow.
One source in the taxi industry said it was important that the matter be investigated otherwise it would set a bad precedent.
The source said: “The matter impacts not just taxis but the whole of the public transport service”.