Mayor suggests city tested Uber with sex offenders
Mayor says he was emphasizing need for rigorous background checks
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’d choose his words more carefully after video captured him describing Uber’s CEO as a “dick” and suggesting the city directed people — some of whom may be criminals — to test the ride-share company’s background screening process.
The remarks emerged Friday in a recording of Nenshi catching a ride with a Lyft ride-share driver in Boston who was broadcasting the trip via a live-streaming app. Nenshi was in the U.S. to deliver a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in nearby Cambridge.
Unaware he was being broadcast on Periscope, Nenshi and the driver (who also works for Uber) began discussing Uber’s ‘illegal’ entry into the Calgary market last year, the subsequent enforcement against its drivers and the city passing new livery bylaws legalizing ride-sharing — rules Uber slammed as too onerous to operate in the city.
“We’re no fools, so we sent people to sign up to be Uber drivers to see if they could get through the background check,” Nenshi said Thursday during the live broadcast, a copy of which was obtained by Postmedia.
“How we found registered sex offenders, I don’t want to know, and people with convictions for violent crimes, I don’t want to know why we know those people,” he continued. “I just don’t want to know, nobody will even tell me and I don’t want to know, but they all made it through Uber’s theoretical background screening.”
During the 27-minute trip, Nenshi also describes Uber employees as “the worst people in the world to deal with” and refers to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as “a dick” whose attitude “has percolated (through) the entire organization.”
In an interview from Boston Friday, Nenshi said he did not intend to suggest the city was using criminals, or their names, to test Uber’s background screening process, but was emphasizing the need for more rigorous police background checks on drivers — something he’s said before.
“The issue is that No. 1, one of the reasons we want to do the CPS background check rather than Uber’s background check is the CPS check catches convicted sex offenders more finely than Uber’s background check, and that is well documented,” he said.
“We also know, and I’ve said publicly many times, that we know that someone with an active charge for assault also made it though Uber’s background check,” he added.
When asked whether the city used civil servants to test Uber’s screening process or clarify which people were “sent,” Nenshi said he did not know.
“The answer is I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to know. But I would be very surprised if the city did. In fact, I can’t imagine a world in which the city did.”
In a statement, an Uber spokesman was disappointed to learn of the mayor’s comments during the Lyft ride.
“It’s disappointing to see Mayor Nenshi stoop to name calling and questionable tactics,” spokesman Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said. “We hope this can give way to a more constructive conversation that benefits the riders and drivers of Calgary.”
Nenshi’s comments are the latest in an ongoing war of words with the ride-share company. The San Francisco-based firm is the biggest ride-share company in the world, but has struggled to enter the Calgary market, deeming the city’s livery bylaws too onerous for them.
In February, city council passed new rules allowing so-called transportation network companies to enter Calgary’s market and compete against traditional taxis.
Earlier the same month, Nenshi told reporters the city had evidence of “at least one case where someone with a criminal conviction made it through Uber’s thirdparty screening process.”
However, when asked by reporters how this was done, he declined to elaborate.
Friday, the city declined to comment on any of Nenshi’s remarks or its livery enforcement operations.
During the ride in Boston, Nenshi appeared to be at ease offering his thoughts on Uber, its business model and its approach to dealing with municipalities.
“They are honestly the worst people in the world to deal with. I have never dealt with people like this before,” Nenshi said.
“I was at a conference and I met Travis (Kalanick) the CEO and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s because you’re a dick and this has percolated (through) the entire organization.’ ”
In the interview, Nenshi said he was unaware the driver was broadcasting the conversation — though there was another passenger in the back seat of the vehicle at the time — and expressed some regret using the vulgar term.
“‘Dick’ is probably the rudest word I will ever say, but I’ve said this before, they are jerks and reams of ink have been written on their government relations philosophy which is in fact that they’re kinda jerks,” he said.
“Certainly, had I been aware that I’d been broadcast, I would have chosen my words a bit more carefully, but I don’t think I said anything that I haven’t said publicly.”
We’re no fools, so we sent people to sign up to be Uber drivers to see if they could get through the background check.