- This Week
Political, racial pressure pays off for the bakery
Retired councilmember Dick Spees, who is white, remembers how heated those meetings were, of being accused of racism because he dared question the business plan or ask about collateral or a missing business license. Bakery members would line up along the wall and refuse to sit, he recalled.
"It sounded good (on paper), this training program to help black people who were not getting opportunities,'' Spees said recently. "But there was this intimidation factor, it just didn't feel comfortable.''
Spees said he grew suspicious when Nedir Bey started racking up ineligible expenses even before federal government lenders had determined E.M. Health's job training program met its criteria for financing.
Spees said he ended up voting for the loan and for several thousand dollars in advances from city coffers after he was assured by city staff on more than one occasion that HUD would approve the loan and that Bey had put up collateral.
De La Fuente, now council president, said he understood that the HUD money was intended for riskier loans, but that was no reason to cave in to pressure and give the money without trying to protect the city's resources.
"I never got their support,'' he said, referring to his black council colleagues, Nate Miley, Dezie Woods-Jones, Elihu Harris and Natalie Bayton.
The city gave Nedir Bey money despite a disturbing incident that occurred on March 4, 1994, when Qiyamah Corporation, E.M. Health's nonprofit parent company was still in its infancy.
On that date, Nedir Bey and Abaz Bey, another spiritually adopted son of bakery founder Yusuf Bey, were arrested and charged with abducting, assaulting, torturing and robbing a man they believed had cheated them on a real estate transaction.
Abaz Bey and other members of the bakery lived in an apartment building on 24th Street in North Oakland, the same one Nedir Bey wanted to buy with his very first request for city money, that ultimately was reduced in scope. The owner had hired the bakery to provide security after being sued by tenants fed up with rampant drug dealing and other crime.
According to police and court records, three men, led by Nedir Bey, beat the man with a flashlight and burned him with a hot knife. The arrests sparked a tense, full-scale standoff between more than 40 police officers and a similar number of male bakery members.
According to news reports, then-Mayor Elihu Harris agreed to meet the demand of bakery patriarch Yusuf Bey to discuss the standoff and the arrests.
Nedir Bey pleaded no contest to one felony count of false imprisonment. He was sentenced to three years' probation after a veteran Oakland police officer and members of the community wrote a support letter on his behalf.
The probation report noted that two other prominent Oakland residents acted as character references for Nedir Bey: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Larry Reid, then aide to Mayor Harris. However, Reid, now an Oakland city councilmember, said he never wrote a letter or served as a reference for Nedir Bey.
When Tribune reporters Diana Williams and Paul Grabowicz questioned whether the the arrest should impact his loan application, Nedir Bey said such details were irrelevant.
"Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, and he was respectable enough to become president of South Africa,'' he was quoted as saying in a June 1996 Oakland Tribune article.
Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who was an Oakland council member and pushed hard for the E.M. Health loan, said recently that he never knew about Nedir Bey's felony conviction or other clashes between bakery members and the police.