By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — City Council voted 6 to 2 last night to shut down American Transportation Taxi Service for a number of undisclosed reasons and one reason that was made public after the meeting.
In a letter to the council, police Chief Alan DeNaro said the owner of the company, Dean Manemanus, recently phoned in an anonymous complaint to the City Clerk’s office about a local competitor, Family Cab company.
“It has been discovered that this anonymous phone call originated at American Taxi and it is believed to have been called in by Mr. Manemanus himself,” DeNaro said in the letter. “Based upon all the issues and concerns that have been previously outlined, I strongly recommend that council deny American Taxi the right to operate in Haverhill.”
Two weeks ago, City Council voted to postpone its decision on the license until last night, to give Manemanus and police time to try to resolve their dispute over the business.
But Monday, Manemanus’ lawyer Paul Magliocchetti said police refused to negotiate or even speak to him about the matter since the Sept. 24 meeting.
Also Monday, DeNaro said he never agreed to negotiate to keep Manemanus in business. The chief said he received a proposal from Magliocchetti late last week, but that he was not comfortable with the terms.
At a closed-door meeting Sept. 24 with councilors and Manemanus, police outlined a number of additional reasons for denying the license. Those reasons have not been made public.
Last night, Council President Robert Scatamacchia attempted to call for a quick vote on the license and dispose of the matter without debate or comment.
Councilor William Ryan objected, however. Ryan, who has been pushing hard to shut Manemanus down, made the motion to deny the license last night.
“His lawyer (Magliocchetti) made it sound like police did something wrong and aren’t doing their job,” Ryan said. “I want the public to know that’s not the case. I know there’s an attempt here tonight to move this quickly, but I want to clear the record on this.”
Ryan argued that DeNaro’s letter should be read into the official record of the meeting. Ryan also was the only councilor who voted against discussing the police allegations against Manemanus in secret two weeks ago.
Scatamacchia declined to read DeNaro’s letter into the record, but other councilors gave it to a reporter after the meeting.
Manumanus did not attend the meeting, but Magliocchetti was there with Manemanus’ wife.
After the meeting, Magliocchetti said Manemanus is considering legal action against the city.
“I’m disappointed for the Manemanus family,” said Magliocchetti, who is also a member of the Haverhill School Committee. “He should have been granted an opportunity to correct the issues. Instead, he has been denied a chance to operate his business and support his family.”
Magliocchetti said Manemanus never broke any rules because the city ordinance governing taxi companies is flawed.
For instance, Magliocchetti said the council is supposed to be overseeing licenses for individual cab drivers, but that police have been performing that function.
Magliocchetti also said all taxi company licenses are supposed to be renewed on a yearly basis on May 1, but that hasn’t been happening either.
“The city hasn’t been enforcing its own rules,” Magliocchetti said. “And there are no rules for conduct and procedures in the ordinance. So Dean didn’t technically violate the ordinance.”
Reached on the phone later last night, Magliocchetti declined comment on DeNaro’s allegation that Manemanus called in a phony complaint against Family Cab company.
Voting to deny the American Taxi license were councilors John Michitson, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, William Macek, Michael McGonagle, Colin LePage and Ryan. Councilor Thomas Sullivan and Scatamacchia voted against the denial. Councilor Michael Hart did not attend the meeting.
Ryan and Magliocchetti have been political foes since Ryan’s son-in-law, Shaun Toohey, ran against Magliocchetti for state senate last year — an election won by Kathleen O’Connor Ives of Newburyport. Ryan’s daughter, Maura Ryan-Ciardiello, is running against Magliocchetti for School Committee in the Nov. 5 election.