A low-ranking city official injected drama into the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial Thursday, implicating the former mayor in behind-the-scenes maneuvering to help his pal Bobby Ferguson win a lucrative deal.
Kilpatrick allegedly directed his hand-picked appointee overseeing the Human Rights department to hamstring a Ferguson rival firm, according to testimony from city employee Kim Harris.
Harris will return to the witness stand at 9 a.m. Friday in federal court.
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Kwame Kilpatrick ordered an underling to hamstring a water department contractor, who later lost a deal that was awarded to a team involving his pal Bobby Ferguson, according to testimony.
City official Kim Harris provided the most dramatic bit of testimony this week in the City Hall corruption case against Kilpatrick, Ferguson and the mayor’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick.
He also shed more light on behind-the-scenes manipulations allegedly involving Kilpatrick that cost a firm a lucrative water department deal.
The dealings revolved around a bidding process in 2006. A company called Superior ranked highest and partnered with a firm called DLZ, which received credit for having its headquarters in Detroit.
Superior ranked higher than a team involving Ferguson.
Kilpatrick and his water boss Victor Mercado had questions about whether DLZ’s headquarters were based outside Detroit.
Harris told Mercado no and that the city’s law department had signed off on DLZ’s qualifications.
In May 2006, Harris had an unexpected visit from his boss, Gerard Grant Phillips.
Phillips headed the human rights department and was appointed by Kilpatrick.
Phillips told Harris to strip DLZ’s status as a Detroit-headquartered business. The move would lower DLZ’s score in the bidding process and knock the firm out of first place.
Harris pushed back.
“What was his response?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked.
“He said the mayor wants it done,” Harris said.
“Did this cause you some concern?” Bullotta asked.
“Yes,” Harris said.
“Why?” Bullotta asked.
“I felt that the contracting process was being tampered with,” Harris said.
Harris drafted a letter decertifying DLZ.
His boss signed it.
The move boosted a team including Ferguson’s firm into first place, letting Kilpatrick’s close friend win the contract, Latimer testified.
Phillips won’t be testifying.
He died last year.
Behind-the-scenes wrangling that led to a contractor losing a 2006 water deal cost taxpayers more money when the job later went to a team that included ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s pal Bobby Ferguson, according to testimony.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow probed the deal while questioning water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer. The questions revolved around a deal prosecutors allege Kilpatrick helped steer to his close friend.
A firm called Superior ranked highest until city officials changed the scoring method in spring 2006.
Afterward, a team including Ferguson won the job even though Superior’s bid was $1 million less.
“Who pays the added price if the contractor charges more?” Chutkow asked Latimer.
“Basically, ratepayers,” Latimer said.
That means almost half of the residents in southeast Michigan who are get drinking water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Prosecutors pooh-poohed an argument from Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer that the former mayor deserved credit for a city rule favoring minority-owned firms based in Detroit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow pointed to a $10 million water deal yanked from minority-owned Lakeshore Engineering Services, which allegedly refused to give Kilpatrick’s pal Bobby Ferguson a 25 percent stake in the contract.
The $10 million deal later was rolled into an existing contract with Inland Waters, which is tied to Grosse Pointe Farms multimillionaire Tony Soave. Inland hired Ferguson’s firm to work on the contract.
Soave allegedly paid for Kilpatrick to shop in New York City and flew the mayor across the country on his private jet.
“Inland received the work. They’re not a minority-owned company, are they?” Chutkow asked water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer.
“No,” Latimer said.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s text message shown to jurors Thursday revealed he and pal Bobby Ferguson discussed a firm’s $10 million water department deal months before the city yanked it and gave the job to Ferguson’s team.
Texts from April 2003 indicate Ferguson and Kilpatrick discussed the contract, which has has been the focus of testimony spanning several days in the Kilpatrick City Hall corruption trial.
Lakeshore Engineering Services businessman Avinash Rachmale said his firm lost the $10 million deal because he refused to give 25 percent of the job to Ferguson.
“Can you think of any reason the mayor would be discussing water department contracts with subcontractors?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer.
“No,” Latimer said.
Former water boss Victor Mercado scrapped the Lakeshore deal, arguing it would save the city money.
Chutkow attacked that claim Thursday.
The prosecutors showed Latimer documents that indicate the work later was awarded to a team that included Ferguson for $10 million.
“The same price as Lakeshore’s?” Chutkow asked.
“Yes,” Latimer said.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer said the mayor’s text was benign. In the exchange, Ferguson discusses Lakeshore’s prices.
Kilpatrick replies with one word: “Cool.”
“Do you have the ability to understand in what context cool is?” lawyer James C. Thomas asked Latimer.
“No,” Latimer said.
“You’re a pretty smart guy, but you are not clairvoyant, are you?” Thomas asked.
“No, Latimer said, chuckling.
A firm tied to a multimillionaire businessman allegedly extorted by ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick tried to bill the city for unwarranted expenses while fixing a Sterling Heights sinkhole that threatened homes and residents, according to testimony.
Water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer said the water department rejected several attempts by Inland Waters to get paid for the work after an August 2004 sewer collapse.
The questionable invoices, introduced by contractor Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer, totaled more than $186,000 and appeared to be an attempt to discredit Inland, a firm tied to Grosse Pointe Farms businessman Tony Soave.
“Inland was trying to get paid for amounts that they weren’t entitled to, is that a fair statement?” Ferguson lawyer Michael Rataj asked Latimer.
“Correct,” Latimer said.
Soave, who is expected to testify later in the corruption trial, claims he was extorted into providing free private flights and other perks to Kilpatrick, mistress Christine Beatty and others.
Defense lawyers said it is inconceivable that Soave, who sold his garbage-hauling company for $750 million, and who has contacts with known mob associates, could be extorted by Kilpatrick.
Inland landed emergency repair work on the Sterling Heights sinkhole.
As mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick awarded the repair work to Inland on an emergency basis, bypassing City Council approval.
The city approved payments totaling $35 million to fix the sinkhole.
It took a year to fix the sinkhole, a project and expense that led to lawsuits against several contractors, and Kilpatrick.
Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick made sure his pal Ferguson got $350,000 out of the project — even though his company did no work.