Jurors on Monday heard how a city agency stocked with relatives, friends and close associates of Kwame Kilpatrick awarded a $7 million deal to the mayor’s pal Bobby Ferguson despite low scores during the bidding process.
Prosecutors on Monday also questioned a Southfield custom-suit maker about the mayor’s expensive tastes in hand-made suits, which allegedly were bankrolled with bribes and other illegal payments.
In the most dramatic bit of testimony Monday, a city employee said Ferguson threatened her after she raised concerns about his company’s performance building a new Heilmann Recreation Center.
“I felt attacked,” LaJuan Wilks testified. “My job was threatened.”
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The city agency that awarded a controversial $7 million contract to Bobby Ferguson’s team was stocked with Kwame Kilpatrick relatives, insiders — and the ex-mayor’s mistress.
Prosecutors focused on the Detroit Building Authority and its board members while probing the $7 million contract to build the Heilmann Recreation Center in Detroit.
At the time, the Detroit Building Authority was headed by Ayanna Benson, Kilpatrick’s cousin. Its commissioners included Derrick Miller, a top Kilpatrick aide indicted in the City Hall corruption scandal; Christine Beatty, the former mayor’s chief of staff and lover; and the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP.
Ferguson’s team won the $7 million contract despite low scores awarded during the bidding process, city official Tyrone Clifton testified Monday.
Earlier testimony alleged Ferguson’s team won the bid after his partner paid $4,800 for the mayor’s suits and donated $10,000 to Kilpatrick’s nonprofit group.
During cross-examination, Clifton said the mayor never pressured him to steer work to Ferguson’s team.
Clifton also agreed the mayor’s cousin, who headed the DBA, was “highly principled” and “hard working.”
Bobby Ferguson threatened a city employee who questioned whether his firm was double dipping on a $7 million city deal.
LaJuan Wilks testified about her concern that executives at Ferguson’s company Xcel Construction were billing the city for working 80 hours a week at two construction sites.
“It appeared they were double-dipping for their time,” Wilks said. “They couldn’t be in two places at one time.”
Wilks raised her concerns to city officials. Soon after, she was called into a meeting at Cadillac Square Building with her boss and Ferguson, the mayor’s close friend.
The meeting was tense as Wilks and Ferguson talked about her concerns, Wilks said.
“At some point, we both began to holler,” said Wilks, the city’s construction project coordinator.
Wilks’ boss sat quietly while the two argued.
“At one point, (Ferguson) goes ‘the only reason you still have this job is because you’re black,” Wilks said.
“What did you do?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh asked.
“I looked at my boss and said ‘this is how you let contractors come in and run things now?’” Wilks said.
“What do you mean?” the prosecutor asked.
“Typically, contractors are not allowed to berate or disrespect us,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen. I felt attacked. My job was threatened.”
“Why did you feel your job was threatened?” Doeh asked.
“I felt that Mr. Ferguson did have a connection to the mayor,” Wilks said. “Because of how my boss behaved, I felt that he was incapable of protecting me.
“Because of how my boss behaved, I read that he must have a connection with the mayor that goes even beyond my boss’ control.”
A $7 million city contract awarded to a team that included ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s pal Bobby Ferguson fell behind schedule and was poorly manned, a city official testified Monday.
LaJuan Wilks recounted her experience overseeing construction of the Heilmann Recreation Center project and said she was surprised the contract was awarded to Ferguson’s team, which ranked far behind the leading bidders.
Wilks testified after Ferguson’s partner on the job said he won the $7 million contract after buying Kilpatrick suits and donating $10,000 to the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group.
Wilks said the project was undermanned and fell behind schedule by winter 2005.
“At that time, the building was not enclosed,” said Wilks, the city’s construction project coordinator. “We were at the point where they should have had it enclosed and we were still discussing closing it up and it had already been a year.”
There were other problems, she said.
The parking lot was inadequate, the heating system was poorly designed and the recreation center’s atrium was unusable for community programs, she said.
The Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial paused briefly Monday to honor victims of the Connecticut school shooting.
A male juror interrupted testimony at 9:36 a.m. and asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds if they could observe a moment of silence for the victims.
“Of course we can,” Edmunds said.
Kilpatrick, co-defendant Bobby Ferguson and others bowed their heads during the 30-second break.
A Southfield suit maker testified Monday that Kwame Kilpatrick knew a city contractor paid $4,800 for the mayor’s custom suits in early 2002.
Prosecutors solicited the testimony from Fashion International owner Larry Alebiosu to counter defense suggestions that Kilpatrick never knew about the purchase and didn’t reward the contractor with a $7 million city contract.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer also suggested Alebiosu pocketed the money.
But Monday, Alebiosu said he called Kilpatrick in March 2002 after contractor Johnson Akinwusi made the $4,800 payment.
“I don’t remember his reaction but I called him…and told him Johnson came in and made the payment,” Alebiosu said.
Akinwusi testified earlier that the suit purchases and a $10,000 donation to the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group, helped his company win city deals.
Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas tried to counter one prosecution claim about the ex-mayor having access to large amounts of illicit cash extorted from contractors and others.
“Did you ever see Mr. Kilpatrick with large amounts of cash?” Thomas asked.
“No,” Alebiosu said.
Kilpatrick bought several suits between 2000 and 2008 and always paid in installments, the suit maker testified.
Sometimes, Kilpatrick would put his suits on layaway and take months to pay in full, the suit maker said.
Unlike most customers, Alebiosu never made Kilpatrick pay in advance.
“I wanted to have my garments on the mayor,” he said.
Kwame Kilpatrick was a regular customer at the Southfield custom clothing store where a contractor says he spent $4,800 for the mayor’s suits before winning a $7 million city deal.
Kilpatrick always complained about having to pay for suits, shirts, belts, ties and shoes, said Southfield haberdasher Larry Alebiosu, owner of Fashion International.
“Always,” Alebiosu testified Monday after prosecutors called him to the witness stand to corroborate contractor Johnson Akinwusi’s earlier testimony. ”He would say he doesn’t make a lot of money, that’s why he would pay me by writing checks, he would give me cash sometimes and put a little on a credit card. Everything was split up.”
Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick spent more than $61,000 on suits during his time as mayor and demanded $10,000 from a city contractor in May 2002 so he could buy suits during a trip to Dubai.
Alebiosu sold Kilpatrick the suit he wore to the 2002 inaugural but could not remember how many suits he sold the ex-mayor.
Alebiosu introduced Kilpatrick to Akinwusi at the Detroit contractor’s 2001 Christmas party.
Akinwusi, who supported Kilpatrick’s opponent Gil Hill in the 2002 election, testified Kilpatrick crashed the party and that he felt uncomfortable when the new Detroit mayor arrived.
Southfield custom suit maker Larry Alebiosu has a lot of high-profile clients who brag about the haberdasher’s skills on Fashion International’s website.
NFL stars Damien Woody and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson gush about Alebiosu’s high-end shop.
“For over eight years of working with Larry at Fashion International, I have had over 200 complete outfits that have not been duplicated on myself or anyone else. I enjoy having an outfit that is suitable for the weather in the city I am playing in and each game day Fashion International creates a complete new outfit from head to toe. “
One high-profile client is missing, however. There’s no sign of Kilpatrick on the website.
Alebiosu took the witness stand Monday morning to testify about his interactions with Kilpatrick.
A Detroit contractor insisted Monday that he spent $4,800 on a suit for Kwame Kilpatrick before winning a $7 million contract to build the Heilmann Recreation Center.
Johnson Akinwusi was shown receipts from Southfield custom suit maker Fashion International indicating he spent $4,800 on Kilpatrick’s suit in March 2002.
He bought the suit, which was on layaway, after complaining to Fashion International owner Larry Alebiosu about his inability to land city deals.
Alebiosu suggested writing Kilpatrick a letter — and paying for the suit.
Soon after, Akinwusi’s firm won the $7 million contract. His partner on the deal: Xcel Construction, a company aligned with Kilpatrick’s pal and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson.