IT'S NOT HARD to find stories about Kundin Nadew—the man city officials call Portland's most persistent “rogue” cabbie.
Since his city permit was revoked in 2012 following a drunk driving arrest, the city says Nadew has made a habit of illicit incursions into Portland from Beaverton, where he's legally allowed to drive a cab. He's been fined more than $25,000 for taking illegal fares within Portland city limits over the last three years.
The city's cab drivers know Nadew's dark mini van, with its makeshift taxi light and conspicuous lack of a proper taxi plate, and sometimes will film him tooling around Portland streets. In a video shot earlier this month, Nadew wags his finger out the van's driver's side window as he foully berates a Green Cab trainee filming him.
“Fuck you, mother pussy!” he yells in broken English. “You mother pussy cab!” Then he drives off.
It's not behavior any employer would relish, but Nadew recently got a fresh shot at legitimacy in Portland's private for-hire transportation world. The city won't let him legally drive a cab, so Nadew got a job with Uber.
Ever since Portland officials began mulling over rules to allow the “transportation network companies” (TNCs) Uber and Lyft to operate legally here early this year, angry cab companies have stressed one point above others. They want TNCs to be subject to the same background checks cab drivers go through—not the proprietary checks Portland okayed in April.
Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, say their checks are rigorous.
And while Portland hasn't seen any of the mayhem from TNC drivers that has cropped up elsewhere—including incidents involving people with spotty legal records—the fact Nadew was hired by Uber points to a glaring inequity in the two processes: Even the city's best-known lawless cabbie can get an Uber gig.
“He's sort of the poster child for illegal operators,” says Frank Dufay, who oversees taxi and TNC regulation for the city. “We revoked his license years ago, and he still continues to operate.”
To be fair, Nadew didn't last long at Uber. Spokeswoman Laura Zapata confirmed to the Mercury that Nadew had been a driver in Portland, but said he “has been deactivated and no longer has access to the platform.” She wouldn't provide details of his employment.
Uber has a code of conduct that stipulates drivers should exhibit “no aggressive behavior,” but it wasn't a violation that got Nadew let go. PBOT says it recieved complaints he was driving for the company, and demanded he be fired. If there was no complaint, he might be driving for Uber today.
“This driver is going to hurt someone with his driving, his anger, and/or his words,” says Wynde Dyer, the Green Cab driver (and Uber foe) to whom Nadew was directing his “mother pussy” comments. “If Uber used the city screening and permitting process like proper professional cab drivers, this guy would not be on their platform.”
In Dyer's telling, she saw Nadew driving erratically on Interstate 5 in the early hours of June 6, and had a trainee who was riding with her start taking pictures and shooting video of his vehicle. When Nadew saw he was being filmed, he unleashed a tirade that cabbies say has become his trademark (another video sent to the Mercury featured Nadew muttering to a filming cab driver “I'll fuck your face, man”).
Nadew says this is all wrong. He insists he only drives into Portland so he can drop off people he's picked up in Beaverton, which is legal. (According to city documents, he's claimed in the past that sometimes people will jump into his cab “against his will” once he's in Portland.) Nadew also accuses cabbies of swearing at him.
“Portland taxi drivers, they think I pick up from Portland,” he tells the Mercury. “When I come, they mad at me.”
Beyond the question of whether Uber's hiring shady drivers, Nadew's scenario raises questions about the city's ability to enforce its transportation laws. PBOT has said it has staff that's checking for compliance, but in cases of repeated lawlessness where no permit is at stake, the agency admits it has fewer options.
“It becomes a police matter,” says Dufay, who's been pressing cops to crack down on Nadew and other illegal cabs. “[PBOT] can send him angry postcards.”