As noted this morning: In recent weeks, two taxi cab companies have sued the Port for allegedly breaking rules during negotiations over an contract to pick up passengers the Sea-Tac Airport, the region's single most lucrative locale. The Seattle-Tacoma International Taxi Association (STITA), which was created to service the airport in 1989, sued first, in an attempt to retain their exclusive service with the airport.

STITA’s lonely battle was joined Friday by Farwest Taxi, which filed a lawsuit against both the Port and Yellow Cab in King County Superior Court. Farwest’s basic claim is that Yellow Cab had also screwed them over. Yellow Cab and Farwest had partnered with Orange Cab in a joint bid for the contract, even as they were all bid individually. Giving the Port the option of signing with one company or with all three under the joint bid. Farwest claims that area lobbyist Chris Van Dyk wrote the Yellow Cab bid, then used that privileged information to undermine the joint bid (also penned by Van Dyk), thus securing the whole contract for Yellow Cab. The president of Farwest, also known as Rainer Dispatch, claimed in a statement that “the Port looked the other way.” Their suit attempts to not only get an injunction against the new contract, but bar Yellow Cab from future bidding.

But Port of Seattle officials say Farwest never issued a formal complaint before issuing the lawsuit, which could mean that they didn't notice at the alleged infraction at the time or “We don’t have reason to believe anything of an illegal manner went on,” says Port spokesman Perry Cooper. “If other evidence comes up to show that it has, we would deal with it appropriately."

This legal controversy has been growing for about two weeks, with roots going back twenty years. Here's some of the background: Since the late 1980s,a non-profit company has had exclusive rights to taxi service from the airport. Other cab companies could only drop off passengers. Last year, the port opened up the contract for bidding after a state audit. This left STITA to compete against other for-profit companies, including the region’s three largest cab companies: Orange Cab, Yellow Cab, and Farwest. The Port Commission opted for Yellow Cab, the largest taxi association, after it offered up a $18.3 million concession fee (a full $8.3 million over STITA’s previous concession fee), and promising greater efficiency, as many of its cabs can pick up people on both ends of the trip, while most of STITA’s can only operate from the airport.

STITA could not match the concession offer, stating that they feared a negative effect on driver wages if they went higher than their new $14 million offer. The nonprofit taxi organization, which comprises around 450 employees?, filed suit two weeks ago over the allegedly illegal negotiations, citing Washington's Airport Act. (The act attempts to limit concession fees “to the actual cost of service,” which STITA maintains the bidding process violated.) A judge issued a stay on the case and it goes to the appeals court on Friday.

Who is in the right here? Not being familiar with the nuances of state airport regulations, it's impossible for me to say. But its looking increasingly likely that negotiations will have to begin again at square one. Meanwhile, STITA and Farwest share a common enemy, but their goals are very different. STITA drivers want to keep their jobs and Farwest wants to expand into their previously exclusive market. That doesn't sound like a promising alliance to me. We’ll have to see how the legal drama plays out.