Fayette County

Owner of one-car cab company wants to expand, but says city won't let him

LexTaxi owner Will McGinnis drove his only cab in downtown Lexington recently. McGinnis wants to add up to five more cars.
LexTaxi owner Will McGinnis drove his only cab in downtown Lexington recently. McGinnis wants to add up to five more cars. HERALD-LEADER

The operator of a one-car taxi company in Lexington wants to grow his business, but he says Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government officials and a local ordinance regulating cab companies have been preventing him from doing that. So he's turned to Fayette Circuit Court — again.

Will McGinnis, operator of Lexington Taxi Inc., or LexTaxi, wants to have up to five more cabs in his fleet, he said.

At the heart of the matter is the part of the local ordinance that says, in general, that people who want to apply for or renew taxi permits must have a minimum of 25 vehicles in their fleets. McGinnis, in his recent request for a declaratory judgment from Fayette Circuit Court, wants to know if the 25-cab minimum requirement is constitutional. He maintains it's not.

McGinnis has been able to get by legally with only one cab because he and allies in the Kentucky General Assembly were successful in a battle to change state laws dealing with taxi companies about 10 years ago. The change allowed officials in Fayette and Jefferson counties to regulate their own cab markets, which opened the door for competition in Lexington. McGinnis' one-vehicle cab business was exempted from the 25-vehicle minimum through a grandfather clause in the state legislation he helped get passed.

But now he wants to grow his business, and the local ordinance contains no clear language dealing with taxi company growth, especially the growth of a grandfathered-in cab company like his, he says.

"There is no clear language in the ordinance that deals with growth of any company that started with less than 25," McGinnis said in a recent interview. It's been the local government law department's opinion that he may either have one taxi, or he has to have 25 or more, he said.

There is no language in the ordinance saying cab companies may not increase their fleets by one taxi at a time, McGinnis said. And the ordinance does not say that a cab company like his that wants to expand must first meet the 25-cab minimum, he said. He also said there is no requirement in the ordinance for other taxi companies to maintain a fleet of at least 25 vehicles once they obtain or renew their yearly permits. In other words, he said, they only have to have 25 or more cabs only one day a year — the day they get their permits.

It's unconstitutional to restrict McGinnis from growing his business, he said.

There are three other cab companies operating in Lexington, all with 25 or more taxis in their fleets, according to Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

Straub said the city could not comment on the pending court matter.

McGinnis said local government officials allowed him to expand his business to 10 cabs during the World Equestrian Games in 2010. Other cab companies were also allowed to add more vehicles during that time.

"Immediately after the World Equestrian Games ended, they made me take them all off the road, except one," he said.

McGinnis has taken the local government to court over the growth issue at least once before. He sued the local government and three of its attorneys in 2006 in Fayette Circuit Court, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for alleged harm to his business, but the suit was dismissed. The state court of appeals agreed with the lower court, saying that the defendants had immunity. The appeals court also indicated that increasing McGinnis' taxi fleet to anything less than 25 would violate the city ordinance and jeopardize his authority under the grandfathering statute. In McGinnis' recent request for a declaratory judgment on the growth issue he does not seek any monetary damages; he just wants a circuit court judge to look at the ordinance and determine what it is saying, he said.

McGinnis' battles involving the taxi business aren't the only battles that have put him in the public spotlight.

In 2010, McGinnis filed a $6.5 million lawsuit against the city and two Lexington police officers, saying he was arrested falsely at his Winchester Road nightclub and charged with violating several laws in 2009. McGinnis, who was charged with possession of marijuana, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, selling alcohol without a license and possession of cocaine, said the charges were dismissed, and he asked that they be expunged from his record. There is no record of the criminal case in electronic court records. The lawsuit is set for trial in September.

McGinnis, who also has been a stripper and a real estate salesman, has run unsuccessfully for mayor of Lexington and for Congress.