The Great Taxi Scam: Never Mind

It is good to see that the city's soon-to-depart taxi commissioner, Matthew Daus, is living up to his reputation.

Daus is a political patronage hire who got his $178,000 a year job because his Brooklyn political club (New Era Democrats) gave early endorsements to Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. He has been in over his head for nearly a decade at one of the simplest of city jobs, which is why the administration has long been forced to assign reasonably competent bureaucrats to oversee his agency. But even his city-assigned minders have trouble keeping him in check. Daus is due to step down this week, but he tried to go out with his biggest blast ever: accusing virtually every city cabbie of ripping off riders, to the tune of $8 million.

Yesterday, Daus appeared before the city council's transportation committee and, in a muted voice, admitted that he might have overstated the Great Taxi Meter Conspiracy by a bit: Say, 90 percent.

Instead of the vast criminal ripoff that Daus pantingly declared it to be on March 13, a closer look determined that instead of deliberately scamming their customers by charging the higher, out-of-town rate, most cabbies had inadvertently pushed the wrong button after coming to a full stop. How'd that happen? The buttons on the new meters Daus approved three years ago are small and too close together.

Let's roll back the videotape a few yards to see how that story originally played after City Hall spread the word on the evening of March 12:

The next morning, The Post made it the wood: "Massive Taxi Scam: Taken for a Ride! Sneaky Cabbies' $8M meter rip-off went on for years."

The Times put it on A1 as well. Daus was quoted this way: "We have not seen anything quite this pervasive. It's very disturbing."

The mayor also chimed in: "Some of these people could face serious charges."

The Daily News ran a front-page banner: "How Cabbies Cheated Us of $8M" There, an unnamed TLC spokesman pointed the finger: "The crooked cabbies clicked on the higher out-of-town rates before taking their fares for a ride, the TLC said."

Daus was back at it just a few days ago, telling the Post in a March 19 story: "I think these people are criminals."

For those who enjoy some good old-fashioned payback, the Taxi Workers Alliance will be outside Daus's Rector Street HQ this afternoon. The "criminals" are demanding an apology. Imagine that!

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