Detroit water boss forced underling to give work to Ferguson

Victor Mercado outside federal court.

Convicted former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado forced an underling to strip a $10 million contract from a firm in 2003 and give it to a company partnered with Bobby Ferguson, according to testimony Tuesday.

Water department official Darryl Latimer said he was forced to cancel the $10 million sewer-repair deal with Lakeshore Engineering Services and give the work to Inland Waters. Inland was headed by Grosse Pointe Farms businessman Tony Soave, a powerful businessman who allegedly provided free private flights and other perks to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Lattimer is corroborating a portion of key testimony from earlier in the case. Prosecutors and witnesses allege Ferguson used his friendship with ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to have the city cancel Lakeshore deals totaling $15 million because the firm refused his demands for a cut of the deals.

“There wasn’t any need to cancel it,” Latimer testified Tuesday.

Mercado told Latimer what to write in an email canceling the Lakeshore deal, the city official said Tuesday.

“Did you feel comfortable writing these words?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Latimer.

“No,” Latimer said. “These were not my words.”

“Did you tell (Mercado) that?” Chutkow asked.

“Uh, I told him I had a level of discomfort,” Latimer said.

“What else did you say?” Chutkow asked.

“I didn’t say too much,” Latimer said. “We work in an environment in which we’re basically given direction and you execute that direction.”

Robert Snell
Robert Snell is the Detroit News federal courts reporter. He can be reached at rsnell@detnews.com or (313) 222-2028.