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Uber: Drivers must have background checks

MANCHESTER — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted to give an ultimatum to the ride-hailing company Uber: arrange state background checks for your drivers within 30 days.

The vote came after midnight on Wednesday, following a contentious discussion among the aldermen, an Uber executive, and city officials, including Police Chief David Mara, who insisted that a state criminal background check was a priority from a public safety perspective.

The vote raises the possibility that Uber will pull out of the city, something William Guernier, Uber’s East Coast operations director, said the company will consider over the next 30 days.

Over the course of the protracted debate, it became clear that Mayor Ted Gatsas’ patience had run thin with Uber, which enables people to use a smartphone app to hail rides from drivers contracted by the company.

“Nobody saying we don’t want you here,” Gatsas said. “Everyone can say we’re getting drunks off the road, but if something happens and someone gets killed, (people will ask) why didn’t you license them?”

Uber has rebuffed proposals to have its drivers be subjected to state background checks, which are conducted by the Department of Safety, preferring instead to have checks conducted by third-party vendors that the company maintains are just as thorough as state checks.

Mara said that because New Hampshire is a “closed” state, the only way to gain access to all state criminal records outside of the Department of Safety database would be to send someone to every county in the state.

“We’re not willing to compromise on public safety, and I believe what we’re asking is very small, to pass a criminal record check to prevent having a convicted felon from operating an Uber vehicle,” Mara said.

Guernier maintained that requiring drivers to get the state background check would pose “hurdles” for prospective drivers. “There are a lot of part-time drivers,” he said. “Our ability to have reliable product suffers, our brand suffers.”

Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann replied, “Your brand already suffers,” referring to the disputes Uber has had in other municipalities around the country. – See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20150506/NEWS0606/150509538#sthash.a1UlbiXl.dpuf

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