Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, November 25, 2002
 
The East Bay Express has published a strong expose over the past two weeks of the cultish local Black Muslim organization. Led by Yusuf Bey, the group has had a substantial presence and public respectability in Oakland for decades, in spite of overt racism and a series of crimes that led the stepmother of a girl molested by Bey to call the group and its influence 'Oakland`s dirty little secret'. The first part focuses on violence and sexual abuse; the second examines their close links to local political power and access to public money.

Although Bey is now being held to account for these allegations of rape and child abuse, his legal untouchability may once have extended far beyond such alleged sexual atrocities. In the late '90s, Allen Tucker was a resident of an apartment complex at 530 24th Street; in 1997, Bey family associate and apartment manager Basheer Muhammad allegedly led a crew of men in beating him unconscious. According to Tucker, associates of the Bey family did much more than this one alleged beating. In fact, he says, the Bey family terrorized the tenants with military drills in the parking lot and violent confrontations. And the cops, Tucker claims, did nothing to stop it.

"Everybody was under threat at that apartment building, even the neighbors," he says. "Every Sunday, they would come over and do these military marches. Every time they came around, you could feel the tension in the air. You knew when they came somebody was gonna get beat up."

Tucker claims that during the numerous confrontations he witnessed, neighbors called 911 but the police never bothered to show up. "The cops would never come," he says. "It was like they were given the okay, like the police wanted to let them do their thing. But their thing is criminal. One police officer, I remember he wanted to get them so bad. But his hands were tied. ... I guess Yusuf Bey's hooked in with the police or the mayor's office. I couldn't understand that."

Tucker's not the only one with stories like this. Two senior Oakland police officers claim that their department allowed Bey family associates to exact vigilante justice in certain neighborhoods in the mid-1990s. According to one officer, there was an unspoken rule among police patrolling the North Oakland beat: In certain neighborhoods, Yusuf Bey's men were going to clean up drugs and crime however they could, and the cops should just get out of the way.

"The methods they employed, we're not allowed to do that in a democratic society," this officer says. "The police aren't allowed to go around and beat up young black men. But during this time, if you were a Black Muslim, you had the permission to do that, and the police were told to look the other way." ...

Regardless of how it happened, just one year after Nedir Bey got off with nothing more than home detention, he received a magnificent gift from the city: $1.1 million in taxpayer money. Bey was the founder and chief executive officer of EM Health Services, which in 1996 asked for a $1.1 million city loan to build a business training nurses' aides and home health care providers to care for AIDS patients and other desperately ill people in low-income neighborhoods. The city just happened to have an ample fund ready to spend on such ventures: $50 million in cash from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, $22 million of which was to be disbursed by the city's One Stop Capital Shop to needy inner-city businesses rejected by traditional banks. The fund was specifically designed to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. Moreover, EM Health Services promised to make its money by giving comfort to the terminally ill -- an ancillary benefit that seemed to make the company an ideal candidate.

At first, some members of the city council had reservations. Councilmen Dick Spees and Ignacio De La Fuente worried aloud that Bey did not have enough collateral to secure the loan, noting that the family's bakery also owed $60,000 in back taxes. Although Your Black Muslim Bakery offered equipment allegedly worth $200,000 as collateral, city officials would later conclude that it was either worthless or already encumbered by prior liens.

But in the course of evaluating this loan, not one person in city government apparently asked why the city should lend $1.1 million to a man who just one year earlier had been convicted of a felony in which he allegedly tortured a man. The issue just never came up, according to Elihu Harris, who as mayor joined Spees, De La Fuente, and the rest of his council colleagues in approving the loan. "I don't know anything about it," Harris says. "I don't have any recollection of that. I'm not saying it didn't happen. But it was not a public issue, it was not raised by anyone I know." According to Mary Joseph, an employee of the city's Community and Economic Development Agency, the city's due diligence simply does not include checking for felonies. "It was not city policy at the time, nor is it currently city policy, to conduct criminal background checks on city loan applicants and their principals," Joseph wrote in response to a question by this paper. "Staff was not aware that Mr. Bey had pleaded no contest to a felony count of false imprisonment in 1995."

Joseph's department moved ahead with the loan in June 1996 -- and has regretted the decision ever since. Within months, city officials were complaining about how Bey was spending their money. By January 1997, agency employees and federal officials were questioning the following expenses: a $96,000 salary for Nedir Bey, $2,000 in cellular phone bills, $43,800 in consulting services, $12,600 for "security," $8,000 in "architectural fees," and $6,800 to lease a Cadillac Sedan DeVille for Bey's personal use -- although Bey later insisted that no city money was used to lease the car. Officials ultimately concluded that EM Health Services had spent $226,000 in excessive salaries and consultant fees in the second half of 1996 alone.

Meanwhile, Bey complained that the city wasn't disbursing the money fast enough. Although the city had agreed to pay the money in quarterly installments, officials soon realized that they had acquiesced before getting federal officials to sign off on the deal. After federal officials noted that Bey and the city had failed to complete all the necessary paperwork, Oakland chose to float Bey cash out of its own pocket -- albeit not as quickly as he wanted. As the city's cash flow slowed down, Bey started firing off angry letters to "the powers that be in Oakland." ...

Of course, Nedir Bey is not the only bitter party. On July 18, 2001, the city received a judgment against him for all $1.1 million. City officials are still trying to determine who, in addition to Bey, may be liable for the loan. To this day, not a penny has been repaid.

It should be noted that Bey and his followers are linked to Nation of Islam; which means that they teach the racial fantasies developed by Farrad Mohammad rather than the more mainstream Islam that most Black Muslim groups now employ.



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