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Published May 04 2013

Cities in region all have different takes on cabbie licensing

FARGO – Rules for obtaining a taxicab driver’s license vary among area cities of similar size to Fargo, with some being more stringent and others looser, but police always play a role in the process.

The Sioux Falls (S.D.) Police Department conducts background checks on cabbie license applicants, but only for traffic and criminal records in South Dakota, said Officer Sam Clemens, a department spokesman.

“They don’t come across many people that they ever deny,” he said.

Sioux Falls’ ordinance is far less specific than Fargo’s, leaving it up to the police chief to refuse a license if the result of the background check is “unsatisfactory.” The revocation section says only that the City Council may revoke a license for a violation “of any applicable provision of this Code, state law or city ordinance, rule or regulation, or for other good cause.”

In St. Cloud, Minn., the license application rules are stricter than in Fargo. The ordinance requires that applicants have no felony convictions in the past 10 years, no gross misdemeanor convictions in the past five years and no misdemeanor convictions in the past three years involving alcohol-related driving offenses, theft or several other charges.

Applicants also can’t have three or more traffic code violations within the preceding 12 months.

Applicants in St. Cloud won’t be disqualified if they can show “competent evidence of sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the duties,” the law says.

However, as in Sioux Falls, St. Cloud’s revocation section is brief, stating that a license may be revoked, suspended or not renewed “at any time for cause pursuant to the provisions of this chapter upon notice and hearing by the City Council.”

As in Fargo, background checks on licensees are conducted once a year at license renewal time, St. Cloud Police Sgt. Jason Burke said.

Fargo police say they would like the bulk of the paperwork associated with cabbie licensing moved to another city department such as the auditor’s office.

That’s what happened in Grand Forks about two years ago, when police successfully pushed to have the majority of the paperwork and money handling associated with applications moved to the city’s finance department.

Police there now handle only the background check portion of the application process, doing a basic check of criminal and driving records, said Cpl. LaVonne Nelson, who oversees the process.

West Fargo does not license taxicab companies or drivers, Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said, and it’s not addressed in city ordinances.

Moorhead’s city code requires anyone who drives a taxicab or limousine on city streets to be licensed as a chauffeur under state law, and to register that license with the city clerk. Licenses must be renewed annually.

Moorhead City Clerk Michelle French said Friday that she didn’t know how many taxi drivers had chauffer licenses filed with the city, and if there are records she didn’t have them readily available. She said The Forum would have to file a data request for her to research the issue. Such a request was filed Friday morning; French said the city should be able to meet the request this week.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528