The man who approached the woman at Philadelphia International Airport was dressed smartly and looked like a professional driver. She said he offered her a ride.
How could she know that her first business trip from England to Philadelphia, last week, would put her in Willie Singletary’s back seat? Or that he would take her for a ride — literally and figuratively — that put a $312 dent in her travel budget? Or that he was a former Traffic Court judge who went to federal prison for lying to the FBI in a corruption probe?
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It didn’t take long for Samantha — she asked Clout to only use her first name — to grow concerned.
Singletary was taking pills while driving, she said. Singletary now says they were B-12 vitamins he takes when he gets weary behind the wheel.
He also took frequent phone calls. Singletary says he uses an earpiece while managing his limousine service on the road.
Then came the fare: $312.38 for a 23.2-mile ride to Conshohocken. And Samantha said Singletary demanded to be paid by credit card before the 38-minute ride ended at her destination. The ride Samantha took typically would cost $40 to $50 by a ride-sharing service.
“He pressured, really, the whole situation,” she said. “It was a massive scam. I was thinking, can I jump out of a moving car?”
Singletary at first wanted to know how Clout knew he was the driver in question. Samantha has pictures of his business card, the phone on which he displayed the fare, and — oh, yeah — Singletary in the driver’s seat.
Moving on, Singletary wanted to know why Clout was bothering him. “I’m not in politics anymore,” he complained. “I’m not running for office.”
That’s true. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in May ruled that Singletary was ineligible for the Democratic primary ballot for City Council because the state constitution prohibits felons from holding public office.
Singletary’s driving was a problem on the campaign trail in April, when his vehicle collided with a parked Tesla Model 3 after a candidate forum. The Tesla had a video camera system that captured Singletary getting out of his car, examining the damage, and then driving away. Singletary blamed the parked car for the accident.
Back to Samantha. Singletary denied pressuring or scamming her, insisting she was a victim of surge pricing that increases rates during busy travel times. He also denied soliciting her for a ride, claiming, “It’s more like she approached me, if anything.”
This could be the start of a long road for Singletary. Airport officials say it’s illegal for drivers to solicit passengers at the airport, which has been a growing problem. And the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates taxi and limo drivers, says Singletary needs a certification to pick up passengers at the airport if he’s taking them to any destination in Pennsylvania. His PPA certification expired in 2015.
The PPA plans to reach out to Samantha, officials there said, and if she chooses to file a complaint, Singletary could be slapped with a $1,000 fine and have his vehicle impounded.
After his denials and defenses, Singletary told Clout he wanted to talk to Samantha to “issue a partial refund for any inconvenience this may have caused.” Samantha declined and is challenging the fare with her credit card company.
The Working Families Party (WFP) has a pair of candidates seeking City Council at-large seats — specifically the two seats out of seven set aside for members not belonging to the majority party (the Democrats) and usually won by Republicans.
That has made the five Republicans seeking those seats nervous.
It has also caused growing political friction with the Democratic City Committee. And this isn’t going to help.
WFP volunteers are texting voters, urging them to support candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke.
Voters can only choose five at-large candidates. There are also five Democrats on the ballot, along with the five Republicans and five other independents or smaller-party candidates. What to do?
Two Democratic Council members, Allan Domb and Derek Green, said they’ve been told in the last week that WFP volunteers, when asked about this math problem, have advised voters to drop Domb and Green in favor of Brooks and O’Rourke.
The WFP, along with campaign spokespeople for Brooks and O’Rourke, say that’s not their policy.
“We do not train or instruct our volunteers or make any recommendations about which Democrats to vote for,” said Joe Dinkin of the WFP. “If a volunteer has a preference, they’re only speaking for themselves.”
We’re on the cusp of a general election. An impeachment inquiry is steaming along in the U.S. House. President Donald Trump is seeking a second term as the Democrats try to pick a nominee. Pennsylvania is a swing state. And the Democrats are looking to build on 2018 gains in picking up congressional seats while the Republicans try to claw their way back in the suburbs.
So much to talk about!