Chicago Tribune finds another "background checked" Uber driver with a felony record

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on February 14, 2014

From The News Desk

It looks like Uber's background check problems are not limited to San Francisco. Following Pando's exclusive report on SF Uber driver Daveea Whitmire, who had a criminal history including felony convictions, the Chicago Tribune has found  another UberX driver with a previously undisclosed felony record.

Tadeusz Szczechowicz was convicted of a burglary felony in 2010, a misdemeanor in 2009 for criminal damage to property, and a second misdemeanor in 2008 for breaking into a car to steal a radio receiver. Like Whitmire, Szczechowicz also appears to have slipped through Uber's background checks.

Given that Uber has a zero tolerance policy for its drivers' criminal records, the felony alone should have disqualified Szczechowicz from providing services via its platform.

In response to the news, Uber admitted this was "an offense that was not picked up by our multi-state background check process." It pointed to the fact that it is expanding its background check procedures to include federal, multi-state, and county level databases. Lastly, and perhaps most surprisingly for anyone who has followed the company's history, Uber apologized.

We are sincerely sorry for this error, and want to assure all riders that we are taking the necessary steps to fix it and build the safest option for consumers.
Until now, the company has, for the most part, been defensive about any lapses in its security. That's what Pando encountered in January while investigating allegations that Whitmire had assaulted a passenger in San Francisco.

At the time the alleged assault occurred, Uber chose not to take any action aside from refunding passenger James Alva's fare. The company's rationale was that because the police called to the scene didn't arrest the driver, Uber would not undergo its own investigation. By Alva's account, Uber did not apologize when speaking with him about the situation on the phone. That lack of apology is largely what drove Alva to take his story to the press.

Following that incident, Pando dug deeper and found that the driver in question had served prison time for a drug-related felony and had also been charged with two misdemeanors for cocaine possession and resisting a peace keeper. When Pando brought that information to Uber's attention, the company offered no apology for the mistake.

Now, a month later, the difference in Uber's reaction between Pando's investigation and the Chicago Tribune's is stark. It's also comforting.

The fact that Uber apologized for the Chicago breach shows the shifting values of the company. It also suggests a growing understanding that swift apologies for serious safety issues are a much better response than defensiveness.