Former bakery associate awarded BART contract
By Josh Richman, The Chauncey Bailey Project
A longtime Your Black Muslim Bakery associate with a checkered past in dealing with public money persuaded BART’s board of directors on Thursday to award him half of a seven-figure energy-efficiency contract, despite BART staffers’ recommendation to the contrary.
Nedir Bey, 48, was a confidant and “spiritually adopted” son of the late Yusuf Bey, Your Black Muslim Bakery’s founder. Once a respected community institution, the bakery has been linked to decades of various frauds, abuses of women and children, and violent episodes, including several homicides. Bey’s own background includes a $1.1 million Oakland city loan never repaid and campaign matching funds questionably spent.
Bey’s Oakland-based Solar Eclipse Group — a nonprofit corporation Bey registered last year — bid last month on a contract for lighting improvements at the 12th Street Oakland City Center and North Berkeley stations. Bey said he never received updated information that BART staffers said they’ve e-mailed to all bidders, so his bid — the lowest of three, and the only one under BART engineers’ estimate for the job — was rejected. The contract was reworked and rebid; this time LINC Lighting & Electrical Group of San Jose was the low bidder and the only one under the in-house estimate, so BART staff recommended LINC get the contract.
But directors Lynnette Sweet, Carole Ward Allen and Bob Franklin refused Thursday, blaming BART staff for letting the bid process get so close to an Oct. 31 funding deadline and for letting a paperwork error foul up a low bid from a minority-owned local small business. Several speakers decried disparate treatment for African-American and other minority contractors; studies have found BART awards a disproportionately small slice of its contract to such firms.
“There’s always a problem when it comes to black people, ever since slavery,” trucking contractor and community activist Charlie Walker told the board. “He (Bey) did everything possible and still he’s being disqualified.”
Also among Bey’s supporters was RichmondBUILD project coordinator Fred Lucero, who said Bey completed his agency’s 14-week pre-apprenticeship construction skills and green job training academy and worked for a residential solar installation nonprofit before launching Solar Eclipse last year. “I know Nedir and the people he will hire,” Lucero said. “They’ll directly benefit from this contract.”
Bey himself decried the “confusing and unclear” bid process and insisted his first bid had been acceptable: “We were clearly the lowest bid and responsive to the contract.”
The board voted 8-0 to split the contract between LINC and Solar Eclipse. That means the two companies will work on one BART station each; they were to meet with BART staff Thursday and today to nail down the costs, with the total not to exceed BART engineers’ $1,486,504 estimate.
Bey recently sent BART an unsolicited proposal saying Solar Eclipse “would like to be given a professional service agreement in the amount of ($)69,750 to assist in analyzing any solar projects that the BART may do in the future, to assist in the BART’s electrical usage analysis, to research CREB, and stimulus moneys that could be used by the BART, and to do an energy audit.”
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said BART “told him we were already under formal agreement with another agency to do our solar management. We told him we’d keep him in mind for future projects but there wasn’t anything to be awarded now.”
Asked whether Thursday’s outcome was just, Bey replied only that he’s “curious why people are trying to prevent me from trying to take care of my family, trying to feed my kids.”
Solar Eclipse’s Articles of Incorporation, filed Oct. 20, 2008, list “Nedir Bey” as the agent for service of process and “Victor Foster” as one of the initial directors; Nedir Bey’s birth name is Victor Rene Foster. A June 2009 filing lists Bey as Solar Eclipse’s CEO and Natalie Bayton as corporate secretary. Bayton also was listed as a board member and manager in a proposal Bey filed in August to create a charter middle school at the same San Pablo Avenue address that’s on his Solar Eclipse business card; he withdrew the charter-school petition Sept. 2 without explanation.
Bayton in 1996 was an Oakland City Council member who voted to award the bakery-spawned E.M. Health Services — of which Nedir Bey was CEO — a $1.1 million economic revitalization loan to train welfare recipients to be home health aides; the company defaulted in 1998. Besides Nedir Bey’s $108,000 salary, E.M Health also had paid salaries to his wife and three of Yusuf Bey’s wives, who were receiving welfare at the same time. Other questionable expenses flagged by city staff included large consulting fees, expensive furniture and a leased Cadillac. With liens and interest, the city says the firm owes more than $1.5 million but never made a loan payment.
All this transpired after Nedir Bey and other bakery associates had been charged in 1994 with torturing and robbing a man with whom they had a real estate dispute; he pleaded no contest to a felony false-imprisonment charge and received a six-month home-detention term.
A Bey family member recently said the beating and E.M. Health episodes led to Nedir Bey’s ouster from the bakery around 2000, yet most contributions to his 2002 Oakland City Council campaign were money orders issued to Bey family members listing the bakery headquarters as their address; those contributions leveraged $14,178 in public matching funds. When Bey finally filed campaign finance reports months after they were due and long after he’d lost the election with only 268 votes, the reports showed all but $500 had been paid to someone named Vaughan Foster. Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission questioned the spending and forwarded the matter for investigation by a state watchdog agency, which closed the case in August 2007 without action.