TAMPA — Public Transportation Commission chairman Victor Crist has called an emergency meeting that could determine the future of the embattled agency’s executive director, Kyle Cockream.
In a memo sent Thursday to PTC board members, Crist said the board needs to discuss recent allegations “attacking the integrity, character and independence of our director, staff and board.”
It comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the PTC used workers from taxicab and limousine companies in sting operations targeting Uber and Lyft drivers for operating without permits and commercial insurance.
That led state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to request a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the agency, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County.
Other concerns include Cockream’s sharing of emails from the agency’s attorney and lobbyist with a taxicab owner.
Uber officials say the stings and emails prove the agency has sided with the taxicab and limousine industry in its battle with rideshare companies.
“We’re taking these allegations very seriously, and we want to get to the bottom of what happened exactly and why, and we want to be fair and judicious about it,” Crist said.
Cockream, who earns about $143,000 per year, was appointed PTC executive director in 2014. He served 28 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and was captain of a special investigations team.
He was scheduled to step down from the PTC in July but agreed to stay on through March, in part to help usher the agency through its dispute with Uber and Lyft.
He did not return calls seeking comment but issued a statement.
“I welcome the opportunity to meet with the PTC board to discuss the recent issues that have been covered in the news media, so that we can discuss how to move forward in a productive way,” he wrote.
Uber and Lyft began operating in Hillsborough at roughly the same time Cockream joined the agency.
Under pressure from owners of taxicab and limousine companies, the PTC has issued $700 citations to rideshare drivers for operating without permits, background checks or other insurance that is required of taxicab drivers.
The agency has also fought Uber and Lyft in court.
The PTC board is not due to meet until its next regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 9, when it is expected to vote on a 15-month agreement that would allow Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Hillsborough.
The emergency meeting is expected to take place next week depending on the availability of the seven board members.
Temple Terrace City Council member David Pogorilich, who is PTC board vice chairman, said he saw nothing wrong with the sting operations using workers from taxicab companies and questioned Crist’s authority to call the meeting.
“I think it’s a witch hunt,” he said. “No laws have been broken. There’s no ethics violations.”
Contact Christopher O’Donnell at email@example.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.