How Oakland's fearful politicos enabled waste: Part 1 - Page 3

How the bakery's $1 million vanished. Along with loan from city, pledges to help community disappeared.
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The company also promised to train 120 low-income residents and welfare recipients as home health workers, who would in turn provide services to Medicare and MediCal patients and other clients who were privately insured. According to E.M. Health's business plan accepted by the city, insurance reimbursements would be more than sufficient to repay the loan. It might have worked if Nedir Bey had started small.

Instead, he purchased expensive office furniture and loaded the payroll with bakery insiders, most of whom had no health care experience, while spending little initially on actual medical supplies, according to loan documents.

Bill Claggett, the former director of Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency who inherited the E.M. loan in late 1997, said he couldn't believe the city gave the company "a dime," let alone $1.1 million.

"They didn't know what they were doing," Claggett said. "The cost per person served was much higher than any other similar business. It was clear (Bey) didn't have the kind of staffing he needed for that operation."

E.M. Health opened its doors on July 10, 1996, in an office storefront on Grand Avenue. That first year's tax return posted income of $6,007 and a loss of $437,802. It spent $85,886 on consultants, $10,600 on security and only $5,708 for medical supplies. It survived almost exclusively on the city loan.

The list of employees included Nedir Bey's wife, Rosemarie Boothe; and another woman, Kathy Leviege, with whom he has two children; family associate Janet Bey; and Madeeah Bey and Farieda Bey, two wives of bakery patriarch Yusuf Bey who are alleged to have received illegal welfare payments at the time, according to civil depositions taken recently in an unrelated case.

Within three months of receiving start-up funds from the city, Nedir Bey was on track to earn $108,000 a year, a figure that was out of line with what similar agencies in the Bay Area paid their CEOs, according to a spring 1997 memo in the city's loan files.

Quarterly wage reports filed with the state show that Nedir Bey's wife earned $47,000 as the assistant administrator, and Yusuf Bey's wives — whose occupations were listed as marketing director and LVN/outreach coordinator — earned nearly $60,000 each, the same as Janet Bey, a registered public health nurse. Other than Janet Bey, none of the women had nursing degrees or related licenses, according to a review of state documents. Saleem Bey said it should not seem suspicious that members of the bakery's extended family ended up on E.M. Health's payroll. He said they worked many different jobs to help support the bakery empire and to further Yusuf Bey's edict to be self-reliant.

He said they also worked alongside Nedir Bey to try and make the enterprise a success. To infer otherwise would be a mistake.

"It behooved the organization to be successful, so it wasn't as if everybody was just eyeing this money and they wanted to steal a million," Saleem Bey said. "If the business plan was successful, by this time it would have created 10 times that amount of money and created many jobs."

Even so, the city's loan staff requested that the compensation for E.M.'s three top executives be reduced by 20 percent, a move Nedir Bey protested in a memo to city officials.

Other questionable expenses

There were other missteps and invoices that city officials questioned before the city received the HUD proceeds, including a lease on a Cadillac and reimbursements to a security company controlled by the bakery.

One city staffer flagged the vehicle lease, $64,000 in consulting contracts, and thousands budgeted for security as ineligible uses of the federal funds. "Staff is exploring options for recovering these costs," reads one memo from April 1, 1997.

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