Why the city of Portland needs to give Yellow Cab the boot, immediately

Yellow CabYesterday fellow BDN blogger Alex Steed wrote a wildly popular piece inspired by a local blog written by Amber Dorcus. The blog gave Dorcus’ first hand account with a local cab company, Yellow Cab, which involved, among other things, aggressive verbal harassment by the cab driver and company owner, Abraham Lembarra.

I’m talking about the type of language that needs a disclaimer on it- insulting, frightening, borderline sadistic stuff.

In the wake of the story the big question became, “who exactly is this guy?”

Alex got in touch with me yesterday afternoon and we decided to co-author a follow up blog. It’s the first time I’ve collaborated on a piece with someone and it was pretty cool, especially because he did all the writing and I got to do the fun stuff.

My role was to call the cab company in question and get to the bottom of it all, because whoever it was that threatened and harassed Dorcus like that did not deserve to keep driving cabs. The crazy thing was, the more I looked into the issue the deeper the whole thing became.

Here’s what we came up with:

Chris got in touch with the Abraham Lembarra, owner of Yellow Cab, who Dorcus had identified as the man who harassed her. He also contacted 207 Taxi, the company Lembarra claims was actually the culprit (a claim that proves far-fetched all things considered). We were also able to hear from others who claim being on the receiving end of verbal harassment by Yellow Cab, as well as someone who claims that—as an employee of the company—had a similar experience herself. This is not the first time Lembarra has been fingered for this sort of behavior.

Chris called Lembarra who was civil at first. In addition to the Docus’ claims, another Yellow Cab customer claims that he was called “faggot” and “trash” while engaging with the company. We brought this up to Lembarra, and he told us that they must have actually been calling [Yellow Cab competitor] 207 Taxi. Neither he nor his dispatchers would use this sort of language, he said. The man who claimed being called “a worthless MaineCare piece of shit” in addition to “faggot” and “trash” confirmed that he was calling the same number that we had reached Yellow Cab and Lembarra at. He said that the dispatcher he talked to had lied to him by claiming to represent 207 Taxi before telling him that he was going to “buy” and “piss on” him.

Dorcus showed us her call log to confirm that she also called the same number by which we had reached Yellow Cab and Lembarra. When Chris told him this, Lembarra claimed that these claims were part of a 207 Taxi created conspiracy to ruin his business. His cabs, he explained, look a lot like 207 Taxi’s cabs and so the car full of guys Dorcus claimed harassed her could have easily belonged to that company. Chris reiterated that our concerns were with the accusations of harassment, not his dispute with 207 Taxi, and he became irate. Lembarra demanded an immediate face-to-face interview, which was not logistically possible at that time, and he demanded to know where Chris lives. Before hanging up on him, Lembarra accused Chris of lying about who he was claiming to be.

Chris then reached out to 207 Taxi to try to better understand their history with Yellow Cab. We were put in touch with company owner Garrin Brady, who explained that he had seen our initial post and was not surprised by the negative report about Lembarra and his company.

In a follow-up email, Brady wrote that Lembarra’s wife left a Google review about 207 Taxi back in 2013 in which she claimed to have been harassed by a driver. Around this same time, Brady claims that Lembarra began calling 207 Taxi and making fake calls as a means of confusing their dispatch. Brady said that he asked Lembarra to stop, claiming it was the drivers who were suffering. He said that Lembarra continued anyhow. Brady explained that it was not until Lembarra referred to a female dispatcher as a “stupid bitch” and “a cunt” that he took the harassment seriously enough to file a complaint against with the division of taxi licensing.

In a Facebook comment which she later confirmed directly, Jacqueline Rich said that she worked for Yellow Cab earlier this year and that the sexual harassment description resonated with her. “At first he’s not quite that bad, but once he gets to know you a little, he takes it way to far,” she said.

Brady said that his complaints resulted in a administrative hearing betweenM.A. Taxi (which Lembarra had been operating as to that point before it became Yellow Cab) and 207 Taxi. He wrote:

He was aggressive and verbally abusive to the administrator.  He was found guilty of all the complaints and the punishment was a 30 day suspension and a $400.00 fine.  Abraham then exercised his right to an appeal, which was held at city hall.  He was a no show at the hearing so by default the previous decision was upheld.  The city manager of Portland then granted Abraham another appeal hearing.  He did show up and was found not guilty and they dropped the fine and suspension.

He went on:

Shortly after those hearings he formed Yellow Cab. He painted his cars the same color yellow as my cars and even went so far as to put my slogan “The Way A Ride Should Be” in the same place I have it on my cabs (the back bumper).  Armed with the same color cab and my slogan he then went out and told customers that he was affiliated with us and we work together.

Jacqueline Rich confirmed this. She explainined, “[Lembarra] blames 207 for everything because they have the same color vehicles and on the bumper they both have ‘The way a ride should be.’”

Brady continued:

There is no way I would affiliate my company with someone like him.  My dispatchers receive multiple complaints about him and his drivers, which, once we talk to the customer and get more details, it turns out to be his cars and his drivers.  I chose to use luxury Acuras for all my taxis and he uses towncars and a dodge minivan.  My cabs are well maintained and my drivers and dispatchers handle themselves in a professional manner.

Brady was quoted in a 2012 Forecaster article unrelated to these incidents as saying the key to his success has been offering superior service, which he called “Business 101.”]

“Something like this would not be tolerated at 207 Taxi,” Brady said.

Dorcus has filed a claim with the city. She is presently awaiting a response.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.