BART board strips Bey firm of contract
By Josh Richman, The Chauncey Bailey Project
Despite racially charged demands for more time from a longtime Your Black Muslim Bakery associate and his supporters, the BART board of directors voted Thursday to give a lighting-improvement contract to another firm.
Nedir Bey complained that BART staff members gave him inadequate time — seven working days — to secure a state-required performance bond to guarantee the work after the board had directed last month that his firm, Solar Eclipse, get half of a two-station contract.
“This whole bonding issue is extremely unjust,” said Bey, who later asked for 30 more days.
But BART staff members said Bey knew of the bonding requirement since September, and because Solar Eclipse lacks a contractor’s license and the joint venture it formed for the job has disbanded, another extension would jeopardize the project’s state funding. Seven of the board’s nine members voted to redirect Bey’s contract to LINC Lighting & Electrical Group of San Jose. Director Carole Ward Allen was opposed, and Director Lynette Sweet abstained.
Bey, 48, born Victor Rene Foster, was a confidante and “spiritually adopted” son of the late Yusuf Ali Bey, founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery. Once a respected community institution, the bakery has been linked to decades of fraud, abuse and violent episodes including several homicides.
Nedir Bey’s own background includes a $1.1 million Oakland city loan in 1996 that was never repaid and City Council campaign matching funds questionably raised and spent in 2002, all after a felony conviction from a 1994 incident in which he and others attacked someone.
Solar Eclipse in September bid on a contract for lighting and energy-efficiency improvements at the 12th Street-Oakland City Center and North Berkeley stations. Bey said he never received updated information that BART staff members say they sent to all bidders, and so his bid — the lowest of three, and the only one under BART engineers’ estimate — was rejected. The project was reworked and rebid; this time LINC was the only one under the in-house estimate, so BART staff members recommended that it get the contract.
But Sweet, Ward Allen and Drector Bob Franklin refused Oct. 22, blaming BART staff members for letting the bid process get so close to the Oct. 31 funding deadline and for letting a paperwork error foul up a low bid from a minority-owned local small business. Berated by Bey and supporters citing BART’s admittedly poor record of using minority contractors, the board voted 8-0 that day to split the contract: Solar Eclipse was to get up to $1 million worth of work at the North Berkeley station and LINC got the 12th Street station work for $1.6 million.
A dozen speakers and at least a dozen more audience members supported Bey on Thursday, many raising the racial rhetoric beyond last month’s levels.
“What we need to do is get away from begging and pleading — we should come demanding, because we’ve paid our dues for 400 years,” said Basheer Fard Muhammad, another former bakery associate among Bey’s co-defendants convicted in the 1994 assault. He later asked the board to decide “what side are you coming down on: God or the devil?”
Mary Jeffrey — who said she’s Bey’s landlord but didn’t mention that her husband is listed among Solar Eclipse’s corporate directors — said that until minorities have equal access to public contracts, they’ll be “victims of apartheid practices.”
Reach Josh Richman at firstname.lastname@example.org