An Open Letter to the John Wayne Airport Commission

Photo by Jack GouldYou guys really blew it.

Your April 18 meeting was a perfect opportunity to express outrage and indignation—and perhaps come up with some solutions—regarding the taxi disaster unfolding at the John Wayne Airport. You could have re-asserted your influence over a taxi contract that has been bungled since March 2000. It was a chance to get real answers to serious questions about what exactly American Taxi is doing with its monopoly over airport taxi service. At the least, you could have registered those questions in the public domain.

Instead, you talked about maintaining jetway air-conditioning units, spending a ton of dough on something called “project-management services” for taxiway reconstruction and discussed a nearby fire station that caught fire. Oh, and you talked about plants. Yeah, plants. You awarded a $54,000, three-year contract for “interior plant maintenance” at the terminal.

It's not as if you didn't have the time. The meeting started at 5 p.m., and ended, what, 20 minutes later? Why the rush? South Park doesn't start until 10 p.m.

It had been more than a week since American Taxi's mysterious president, Rick Schorling—who has long been in shit up to his ears—filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for American on April 10. His reasoning was that he needed to protect his company's assets from a “hostile takeover.”

Sure, the agenda was already written when Schorling's bankruptcy filing appeared in the Federal Building in Santa Ana, but did it ever occur to any of you to get a supplemental item placed on the agenda asking Schorling what the hell was going on? Or how about to mention, in public, that there will be an audit of American?

You must know that the word “bankruptcy” doesn't even come close to describing the financial chaos surrounding American. Litigation is nothing new in the cab industry, but some of the suits involving American border on the bizarre. There's the pending lawsuit in which eight members of the Singh family—original partners in bankrolling and forming American—are alleging they were illegally cut out of the company; there's the dismissed lawsuit in which Schorling sued his own partner Clarke Cooper, alleging that Cooper skimmed money off the top when he arranged financing for the company's 150-plus cab fleet; and there's the pending suit in which Cooper sues American, alleging that Schorling and fellow partner/well-heeled county lobbyist Lyle Overby are attempting to cut him out of the company, too. Schorling and Overby deny any wrongdoing in the court papers, but still, doesn't any of this bother you?

None of this is new. The Weekly already profiled Schorling in some detail, showing how he spent nearly 20 years before becoming a cabby jetting around Latin America, cutting deals with dictators and thugs for recycled and sometimes nonexistent helicopters. Schorling formed a bunch of aircraft brokering companies during this time, all of which were eventually dissolved. And when Schorling finally disappeared in 1992—after bouncing checks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars—he left a tangled trail of deceit and bogus deals in his wake.

Rumors that American was collapsing have been flying around since, well, the moment the company was awarded the airport contract a year ago. I know you're all intimately aware of that, since you guys actually recommended that another cab company win the right to prowl the terminal.

Your reasoning was pretty sound: American was already losing money despite the fact that it had been in existence barely six months. The way American financed $3 million worth of brand-new cabs before the contract awarding was pretty cocky, too. And of course, there was that whole five-year experience requirement that American didn't even come close to meeting.

For the most part, you guys did the right thing by not recommending American. But the county Board of Supervisors overturned that decision at the last second, allowing Schorling to take over the airport route.

That settled that. But in their infinite wisdom, the supes never named a back up company for the contract, should American blow apart entirely. As far as the drivers are concerned, they're pretty fatalistic—those who talked to the Weekly emphasized that should American go belly-up, they'll just drive for someone else. But what about the traveling public? Doesn't that bother you enough to get at least a couple of questions on the public record?

Yeah, I know the meeting wasn't exactly a packed house: counting me, exactly one member of the public was in attendance. Even airport director Alan Murphy was out sick. Hell, only three of you actually attended: Second District appointee Cecilia Age was out, and there's still a vacancy left by San Jose jet setter Gary Proctor's move to the Newport Beach City Council. Still, with American's bankruptcy news just a week old, it was a golden opportunity to show that you're all still relevant.


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