Yellow Cab controversy: Company president Brad Whittle slams Westword story in memo

Brad Whittle, president of the company that operates Yellow Cab in Denver, refused to comment for last week's cover story, "Mean Streets," in which former taxi drivers described alleged abuse and discrimination at the operation. But after the story came out, Whittle apparently weighed in on the subject, and our coverage of it, in a memo sent out to many of the company's employees -- a copy of which was obtained by Westword.

The memo, reprinted in its entirety below, was apparently sent out the day after "Mean Streets" was published -- and makes clear that Whittle doesn't think much of the story. The coverage, says Whittle, was "politically motivated" and involved allegations that he says are "simply not true."

We'll let the memo speak for itself -- except for the part where Whittle notes, "Notice the article did not interview any of our long-term drivers or employees that have been here for years and consider Yellow Cab their family."

That's correct -- because Westword wasn't allowed to do so. After repeated requests to interview Whittle as well as all Yellow Cab managers named in the lawsuit about either the lawsuit or Denver taxi issues in general, all questions were referred to Ruth Otte, the Maryland-based Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications of Veolia Transportation, the national transportation corporation that owns Yellow Cab.

When asked this week for comment on the internal memo, Otte noted via e-mail that, "It seems to us that it would be good for you to let potential readers know that this was an internal memo issued to our Denver employees (approximately 25 people). Letting your readers know this would give them some context."

Here's the memo in question:

Sent: Thu 12/2/2010 12:54 PM

Subject: Article

Everyone --

You may have seen or heard about the recent article in Westword that came out yesterday. This article paints the Denver taxi industry, Denver Yellow Cab, and several employees in a very bad light. I have known and worked with the employees named in this article now for a decade. Many of you have known them longer. I know each and every one is a fine, upstanding person and I know what has been said about them in this article is simply not true. This article is politically motivated and involves those that now drive at a competing taxi company.

Unfortunately in today's world, there are no longer any standards of decency or integrity in much of the media and the "story" is far more important than the truth. You all work here and know the truth. Yellow Cab provides a great opportunity for anyone who seeks to be associated with our company. We are proud of the diversity in our workplace -- both employees and drivers alike. Notice the article did not interview any of our long-term drivers or employees that have been here for years and consider Yellow Cab their family.

As to the case that will go to arbitration early next year, we believe the case is built on blatant mistruths. Both sides are precluded from discussing the case and we all signed confidentiality agreements. We will continue to do the right thing and not discuss this case except with our legal counsel. We are confident these allegations are false and will be proven false at the appropriate time and place.

If anyone ever sees or hears or any discriminatory, illegal, or an activity you believe is inappropriate, I urge you to contact me directly. As you know, Veolia also has a hotline where anyone can report issues at 1-866-850-3033. Veolia prides itself on being a company that CARES. You can review the Veolia web page for more information. I have copied a section below for your convenience to read.

As a reminder and is our company policy, if anyone from the press contacts you regarding this or any other story, the reporter should be forwarded to either Ross or Brad for handling.

Although I strongly support the free press, it is unfortunate that anyone can print anything they like, whether it has been properly investigated or not. We will continue to hold our heads high. We will continue to offer a great opportunity to a very diverse community. As Mark Twain said, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel."



Below is from the Veolia Web Site:

We see care as central to everything we do. The care that we show every day for our passengers, their safety, mobility and comfort, is the heart of the service we provide. We show our care for each other by listening, building strong teams, supporting each other, and respecting each other's opinions and goals. We show our care for the planet by improving fuel efficiency, green driving, and taking environmentally friendly actions in our offices and facilities. Our caring values guide our everyday choices.

We have delineated what each letter in "Care" represents, and this is how we connect to the values of our parent company:

C: Commitment to Customers A: Accountability, especially for Safety R: Respect for Others and the Planet E: Empowerment of Employees

We have carefully delineated the behaviors that comprise our values and we are working to communicate and reinforce our values, and live them in our day-to-day behaviors. Our goal is to have our values permeate our culture and guide our employees in the choices they make every day.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Denver taxicab controversy: Read Yellow Cab lawsuit alleging discrimination and abuse." Follow Joel Warner on Twitter @joelmwarner

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner