The Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial featured compelling testimony today from a water department contractor and text. allegedly outling the anatomy of a rigged bid
The testimony and texts addressed a key allegation in the corruption case, that Kilpatrick and others orchestrated a racketeering conspiracy involving Detroit Water and Sewerage Department deals.
Testimony continues at 9 a.m. Thursday in federal court.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
Bobby Ferguson discussed water projects with his close friend, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and used racial terms to describe rival bidders, according to text messages read in court Wednesday.
The texts detail the anatomy of a rigged contract and reveal behind-the-scenes scheming that allegedly involved Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado, who is standing trial alongside Ferguson and Kilpatrick.
The texts are from 2003 and 2004 and show Ferguson allegedly trying to influence contracts awarded to replace water mains downtown. The project was overseen by a firm named DLZ and businessman Pratap Rajadhyaksha — who Ferguson referred to as “Asian People.”
One exchange was from February 2004 captures Ferguson complaining, in profane terms, to Kilpatrick about negotiations to get work on the project.
Ferguson: “Hate to bother you, but you need to here this. Pratap people stopped negotiating with my people…”
Ferguson: “Just what you said before. When we are not apart of the decision making, we get f— no matter how the process started.”
In March 2004, the water department signaled its intention to award a water main project to the three lowest bidders — and not Ferguson’s firm.
On March 16, Mercado texted Kilpatrick to hold a meeting — presumably to talk about awarding the water main contract.
Later that day, Kilpatrick texted Ferguson to meet him in the mayor’s office, saying the chat was “very important” and regarded the downtown water project.
Two days later, on March 18, Ferguson met with Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado and learned changes were being made to benefit his firm.
After the meeting, Ferguson texted Kilpatrick, using his signature spelling and grammatical errors.
Ferguson: “Just left Victor. The date has been change (sic) to my benifit. But we still have problem on the big one, (Mercado) thinks he is slickman with this white folks.”
Ferguson’s was complaining that the contracts for water main work were going to be awarded to three firms majority owned by white people, according to testimony.
Kilpatrick responded to his friend’s text about Mercado being slick:
Kilpatrick: “His slick s— is running out. I got his ass on something. I ain’t happy.”
Days later, on March 23, 2004, Ferguson sent the mayor a text, complaining about the water main project being awarded to white firms.
Ferguson: “Victor just outsmarted us, he just had me come to his office. I thought it was about the job we have, it was about the three lowest bidders, white folks.”
On April 1, Mercado texted the mayor, allegedly indicating he was looking into delaying the project.
Three months later, in July, the contract to replace water mains downtown was awarded to Ferguson’s firm — not one of the original white-owned contractors.
In all, Ferguson’s company was paid approximately $6.9 million in taxpayer money.
A construction manager who complained about working with Bobby Ferguson got fired by his own brother from a firm that oversaw water projects in Detroit.
Ferguson lawyer Michael Rataj elicited the embarrassing detail while cross examining government witness Pratap Rajadhyaksha, formerly with the Detroit consulting firm DLZ.
Rataj’s questions focused on late 2005/early 2006.
“Your own brother fired you, correct?” Rataj asked.
“No, not at that point,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“But he did fire you, right? Your own brother, right?” Rataj asked.
“True,” Rajadhyaksha said
“Because you couldn’t get along with people,” Rataj said.
“Not true,” Rajadhyaksha said.
Rataj asked the contractor if disclosed the firing to EPA Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz, one of the agents investigating City Hall corruption.
“Did you tell Agent Paszkiewicz that your brother fired you because you pissed too many people off?” Rataj asked.
“No,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“But you pissed off some people,” Rataj said.
“Sure,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“And your brother got rid of you,” Rataj said.
“We parted company,” Rajadhyaksha said.
A construction manager who griped about working with Bobby Ferguson conceded Wednesday a water main project involving the mayor’s close friend finished under budget and ahead of schedule.
Pratap Rajadhyaksha admitted he told a federal agent in 2009 that the project his firm DLZ oversaw replacing water mains in 2004 was successful.
The admission came after Rajadhyaksha testified about demands from Ferguson for more money and criticized the contractor’s work and complained about pressure to hire the mayor’s friend.
Ferguson lawyer Michael Rataj asked Rajadhyaksha about a 2009 interview with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz.
“Did you tell Agent Paszkiewicz that the program was a success and it came in under budget and ahead of schedule?” Rataj asked.
“Probably,” Rajadhyaksha said.
Rajadhyaksha earlier said Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado pressured him to hire Ferguson, who headed one of three qualified minority firms in the city.
“They made you look good, didn’t they?” Rataj said.
Rajadhyaksha previously described a testy phone call he had with Ferguson after complaining about the contractor’s work to Mercado and demands for more money.
“You’re a pretty strong personality, wouldn’t you agree?” Rataj asked.
“I do OK,” he said.
“Nobody can push you around?” Rataj said.
“I don’t know,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“You’ll fight back if they try,” Rataj said.
“I don’t know if that’s a good characterization,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“It’s a fair statement that you and him at times butted heads, yes?” Rataj asked.
“Yes,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“That’s not unusual in the construction industry, right?” Rataj asked. “You’ve got strong personalities involved.”
“Yeah,” Rajadhyaksha said. “But you have strong personalities in all businesses.”
A scorned Detroit contractor pumped Detroit Water and Sewerage Department engineers for inside information on city contracts, a defense lawyer alleged Wednesday.
Michael Rataj, defense lawyer for Bobby Ferguson, was trying to portray contractor Pratap Rajadhyaksha as having an unfair advantage — an allegation facing Ferguson, a close friend of Kwame Kilpatrick.
In a combative exchange, Rajadhyaksha admitted he would talk with friends who worked as engineers at the Detroit water department.
“You used that to get a leg up on the competition, isn’t that true?” Rataj asked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell popped out of her chair and objected to the question but was overruled.
“I don’t know about a leg up, but it’s certainly important to know what’s coming up,” Rajadhyaksha said.
“So you can get a jump,” Rataj said.
“I dont know about a jump,” the contractor said.
“But if you know what’s in the pipeline, you as an engineer can start putting together drawings, bid packages…,” Rataj said.
“No,” the contractor said.
Rataj also questioned the contractor about hiring former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Conrad Mallett Jr. — a former Kwame Kilpatrick insider — as a liaison between City Hall.
Ferguson is accused of capitalizing on his friendship with Kwame Kilpatrick to extort contractors and illegally pocket millions.
“The reason you hired Mr. Mallett was to gain access to the powers that be at City Hall, isn’t that true?” Rataj asked.
“I’m not sure what that means,” Rajadhyaksha said. “His job was to basically make sure our interests were protected at City Hall.”
“You did that because Mr. Mallett was connected, isn’t that true?” Rataj asked.
“Yes,” Rajadhyaksha said.
A Detroit contractor scorned after clashing with ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s friend Bobby Ferguson said he had his own powerful City Hall insider.
Pratap Rajadhyaksha hired former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Conrad Mallett Jr., paying him $5,000 a month to act as a liaison between his company and City Hall.
Mallett stepped down as Detroit’s chief operating officer under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in April 2002.
John Shea, a lawyer for Kilpatrick’s father Bernard Kilpatrick, questioned Rajadhyaksha about the relationship with the former Supreme Court chief justice.
“You hired (Mallett) because he had close ties to the administration?” Shea asked.
“That’s right,” Rajadhyaksha said.
Shea appeared to be drawing parallels between Mallett and Bernard Kilpatrick and suggest there is nothing illegal about hiring a Kwame Kilpatrick insider.
Bernard Kilpatrick is accused of capitalizing on his son’s terms in office and pocketing money from contractors who feared losing city business unless they hired him as a “consultant.”
Mallett, meanwhile, had a share of electrical and janitorial contracts at Detroit’s Cobo Center that have been linked to a City Hall bribery scandal.
In a 2009 Detroit News story, Mallett said his company, ABK Development LLC, received a monthly retainer from Karl Kado, the former Cobo contractor who allegedly paid bribes to two successive Cobo directors.
Kado is a key government witness in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial and will testify at some point. He is among at least 11 convicted felons scheduled to testify during the trial.
A Detroit firm that clashed with Bobby Ferguson lost city business and a key designation that gave preferential treatment to minority contractors.
Detroit firm DLZ oversaw a project replacing water mains in Detroit in 2004 and a company official repeatedly clashed with Ferguson over cost and quality. After the work was finished, and as the city prepared to award contracts for additional work, the city yanked DLZ’s a certification giving preferential treatment to companies based in Detroit, according to testimony.
DLZ failed to get additional work replacing water mains, former DLZ executive Pratap Rajadhyaksha testified.
He said he was surprised considering former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado praised his company’s performance.
Rajadhyaksha said the Detroit water boss was under pressure to give work to Ferguson. Their private meetings were interrupted occasionally by phone calls from Ferguson, he said.
“(Mercado) seemed to under a lot of pressure to give Mr. Ferguson work and he was getting tired of it,” Rajadhyaksha testified.
“Did he get phone calls regarding Mr. Ferguson?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked.
“That was my impression,” he said.
“Why?” the prosecutor asked.
“Because after he hung up he would say ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with this guy,’” Rajadhyaksha said.
Bobby Ferguson was always hitting up a consulting firm for change orders that padded a multimillion dollar water main replacement project in downtown Detroit, according to testimony Wednesday.
Contractor Pratap Rajadhyaksha testified his firm DLZ hired Ferguson Enterprises Inc. to replace water mains amid pressure from City Hall to hire minority-owned firms in 2003-04.
“We were trying to use minority contractors whenever possible because the city was interested in a significant amount of minority participation,” he testified. “He was probably, out of the six (contractors) the most difficult contractor to deal with. He was usually late and wanted to get paid a lot of change orders that we felt were unjustified. But we hung tough and in the end everything got done.”
It was obvious why he was urged by Water boss Victor Mercado to hire Ferguson, he added, a reference to the contractor’s friendship with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Out of three minority firms, Mercado recommended he hire Ferguson, he added.
“He said he would like to see Bobby get some of the work,” he said.
Mercado was direct, he added.
“‘Anything you can do to help Bobby would be well received by the mayor,’” Mercado allegedly told Rajadhyaksha, according to testimony.
At one point, Rajadhyaksha wrote the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department a letter about Ferguson’s performance.
Soon after, Ferguson called.
“He was yelling and screaming over the phone,” Rajadhyaksha said. “He was very upset. He said I was making him look bad.”
Rajadhyaksha said it was his responsibility to share his concerns with Mercado.
“He basically said don’t worry about the director, you have to worry about me,” Rajadhyaksha said.
The phone conversation ended abruptly.
“I hung up on him,” Rajadhyaksha said.
The Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial is turning into a dead man’s party.
At various points during the five-week-old trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers have portrayed at least seven dead people as character witnesses, alibis, culprits, bogeymen and bit players caught in Kilpatrick’s orbit.
The dead range from a federal judge to a casino and cable mogul to an alleged Ponzi schemer. The dead won’t testify or contradict but are serving powerful roles in the case.
Here’s a partial list — so far:
1. Don Barden: The casino and cable titan allegedly plopped $5,000 in a gift box during the “Splash of Red” party celebrating Kwame Kilpatrick’s 36th birthday in 2006. Barden, 67, who led one of the largest African-American-owned conglomerates in the country died in May 2011.
2. Abner McWhorter: Jurors heard a wiretapped conversation in which Bernard Kilpatrick asked for $5,000 from McWhorter, a pension fund businessman who later killed himself amid a soured city pension deal and hunt for $5 million in missing cash. McWhorter allegedly told his partner he paid a $100,000 bribe to the mayor’s pop in order to receive a $10 million pension fund loan. Where did McWhorter say the bribe money came from? An accused international heroin dealer. McWhorter, 41, committed suicide in Detroit in August 2011.
3. U.S. District Judge John Feikens: The “Sludge Judge” is a serial character witness in the trial. He praised Kilpatrick’s co-defendant Victor Mercado in an old court filing and the kudos got a prominent place in opening statements by Mercado’s lawyer last month. Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer showed jurors another letter Tuesday hailing progress made by the Water department during the mayor’s tenure. Feikens, 93, died in May 2011.