In a definite candidate for the ironic hall of fame, the BART board last week awarded part of a multi-million dollar contract to Nedar Bey -- who had earlier accused that very board
of being "servants of the devil."
Fittingly, hundreds of thousands of dollars in government money may be going straight to hell, as Bey has been unable to line up the necessary bonding -- insurance, basically -- required of BART contractors. In a flurry of distressed memos and in interviews with SF Weekly
, several members of BART's board and management say that if this matter isn't finalized by Oct. 31, money from the State Transportation Improvement Program earmarked for lighting improvements at North Berkeley BART could simply go unspent. Up to $3.2 million in state money is earmarked for improvements at both North Berkeley and Oakland 12th Street stations. The North Berkeley operation's base bid was for $562,129 with options for an additional $218,000 in work -- a total of more than $780,000.
"If we don't get this settled, the money goes away," said BART's San Francisco-area board member Tom Radulovich. "North Berkeley doesn't get done." BART spokesman Linton Johnson confirmed that state money "evaporates tomorrow."
The controversy around Bey -- a scion of Oakland's Your Black Muslim Bakery empire
-- ostensibly started earlier this year, when his firm, Solar Eclipse, submitted the lowest bid to do work on both the 12th Street Oakland and North Berkeley stations. It turned out, however, that Bey had filled out the wrong forms. And rather than send him a certified letter to correct the situation -- which is BART policy -- he was sent an e-mail. Bey claims he never received that e-mail, and was understandably peeved when the contract went out to bid again.
"Our policy never has been to send an e-mail," fumed BART board member Lynette Sweet. "And he turned in his proposal on the wrong paperwork because BART gave him the wrong paperwork."
The second time the contract went out for bid, LINC Corporation -- which replaced the lighting at San Francisco's 16th Street and 24th Street stations -- entered the lowest pledge. Yet, in an Oct. 22 move BART Board president Thomas Blalock described as "thinking outside the box" and Sweet calls "fatally flawed," the board decided to split the contract. LINC would re-do 12th Street, while Bey's Solar Eclipse would work North Berkeley. With the deadline looming on the 31st, both builders were informed that they would have to present sheafs of papers including revised price proposals and documents guaranteeing insurance and bond requirements had been met by Monday, Oct. 26.
LINC submitted the paperwork. Solar Eclipse did not. A frantic series of communications -- captured in memos obtained by SF Weekly
-- ensued, with Bey and BART each blaming the other for the problem and BART feverishly attempting to find a way to keep state funds from being flushed away.
On Wednesday, Bey wrote to BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger that the transit service had put him in a "double bind" -- he could not get bonding without an award letter from BART, but BART would not grant him the letter without bonding.
Reached on his cell phone Friday, Bey said he had no way of knowing if we really were journalists, and refused to speak to us except in a face-to-face interview. He declined to state whether he has obtained the necessary bonding or discuss his contract with BART.
BART's manager of procurement, Richard Wieczorek, tersely wrote back to Bey Thursday that the reason he hadn't been given his award letter is because he hadn't come close to submitting all the required documentation: He was short "All eight pages of the bid form fully executed, both a payment and the performance bond, insurance coverage for the contract, a new joint venture agreement ... since you altered your original agreement, and a statement of qualifications ..."
Meanwhile, BART's board moved to take Bey's contract away if he was unable to deliver -- but it couldn't. Radulovich on Oct. 22 suggested a clause in the contract that would allow either LINC or Solar Eclipse to do work on both
BART stations if one of the firms was unable to come through. That proposal, in Radulovich's words, "was shot down." But the idea was resurrected by Board President Blalock on Wednesday. Yet, with five of the nine board members out of town, BART was unable to come up with a quorum for a Friday emergency meeting. It seems BART has to either pray its contracted partners make good on their obligations -- or lose that money.
Finally, Sweet says the whole process has been misbegotten from the start. She said that these funds were originally made available by the state in December of 2008. Yet, continued Sweet, BART management didn't come to the board until Sept. 24 of this year -- and, citing the pending deadline, asked for the board to vote on an "emergency contract."
"An emergency contract is for when something blows up and you have to get it fixed. Lights is not an emergency," said Sweet. "This one was not done right. We never should have put this contract out as an emergency contract."
Adds Radulovich: "This is no way to run a railroad."SF Weekly managing editor Will Harper contributed to this report.