Ferguson mentored black contractor, witness says

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson helped a young black contractor get started in the construction business, a witness testified Monday.

The testimony came as Ferguson’s lawyer tried to combat government witnesses who portrayed Kwame Kilpatrick’s friend as a crooked businessman who extorted businessmen.

Kilpatrick’s lawyer James C. Thomas took a break from questioning witnesses and let Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn call witnesses.

Minority contractor Theo Simmons testified he met Ferguson in the early 1990s and eventually worked as a trucker and as a subcontractor on sewer jobs.

Ferguson offered to let Simmons and his brother’s company E&T Trucking move into his former office building in Detroit.

“That was a good thing,” Simmons testified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow

Under cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Simmons about his company paying Kilpatrick’s father Bernard $40,000 to get city business.

Simmons said he didn’t know about the check paid to Bernard Kilpatrick’s consulting company Maestro Associates.

“E&T is your company but you were not aware you were hiring consultants?” Chutkow asked.

“I was the partner in the field working,” Simmons said. “The paperwork, I didn’t know.”

“Were you aware of any fee disputes between Mr. Ferguson and your brother?” Chutkow asked.

“I don’t know nothing about nothing,” Simmons said.

A former Ferguson employee testified about working for Ferguson.

“You had to be accountable,” former employee Lewis McVay testified.

McVay previously worked for William Hayes and his firm Hayes Excavating, a rival of Ferguson’s.

Prosecutors showed McVay text messages between Ferguson and Kilpatrick from 2004. In one, the friends joked about Hays and discussed the prospect of taking work away from the black contractor.

“You said Hayes was a good man, a good friend. Would it upset you if the mayor and Mr. Ferguson were laughing about Mr. Hays?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

McVay took several dramatic pauses and stared at the courtroom ceiling while he considered a response.

“You want my personal opinion sir?” McVay asked the prosecutor.

He paused again.

“I wouldn’t like that,” McVay said.

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