City Of Houston Considers Penalizing Uber For Not Complying With Ordinance

App-based ride-share service Uber is in trouble in Houston. It turns out a driver who was recently charged with sexual assault was operating without a city permit.


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Duncan Burton, 57, is accused of raping a passed-out passenger at his apartment after picking her up from a bar in January.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said if Burton had tried to register with the city — as is required for Uber drivers — that could have been prevented.

“He apparently got out of the federal pen in 2012 and he’s on either parole or probation. How do they not pick that up?” Parker said. “And we never had the opportunity to catch it because Uber never brought him to us.”

Uber drivers are independent contractors who use their own cars and pay part of their fares to the company.

Uber operated illegally in Houston until the City Council passed an ordinance to regulate non-traditional taxi services last year.

There are still many outstanding citations of drivers who operated before the ordinance went into effect, but Parker said the issue has changed.

“The question now is whether not the individual drivers, but whether Uber itself is operating in good faith,” she said.

City Attorney Donna Edmundson said the city is now considering several moves, including possibly shutting down the company’s operations in Houston.

When asked for comment, Uber sent us a letter from Uber Texas General Manager Chris Nakutis to Mayor Parker, in which he writes that drivers are urged to apply for a city permit and that they’re removed from the network if they don’t comply.

He writes further that several thousand Houstonians work as Uber drivers and “it has been a challenge to move this large volume of drivers through the city’s permitting process.”

a letter from Uber Texas General Manager Chris Nakutis to Mayor Parker


Uber Letter to Mayor Parker (PDF)

Uber Letter to Mayor Parker (Text)


*Note: Uber spokeswoman Debbee Hancock tells us the letter is mistakenly dated March 8. It is actually from April 8.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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