Ferguson upset contractor by invoking ties to Detroit mayor

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson.

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson.

Bobby Ferguson flaunted his friendship with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and used their ties to threaten rival contractors, according to testimony Wednesday.

Ferguson prominently displayed Kilpatrick’s photo in his office, alongside pictures of Ferguson’s children and photos of the mayor’s mistress, Christine Beatty. And he involved Kilpatrick in a dispute over a Detroit Public Schools project early in the mayor’s first term.

Contractor Odell Jones testified about his interactions with Ferguson, who worked as a subcontractor on a project involving Taft Schultz school in Detroit.

Jones managed a $1.5 billion bond proposal to improve school buildings in Detroit. Ferguson worked as a subcontractor for the firm Turner Construction.

Turner got into a fee dispute with Ferguson and thought Ferguson was overcharging for work. The dispute stalled construction.

Jones investigated and agreed Ferguson was charging too much.

He met with Ferguson and told the contractor he was charging too much.

“At the end of the conversation, he said ‘well, go on strong black man,'” Jones testified. “I thought he was just being silly.”

“Did you laugh?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh asked.

“No,” Jones said.

Before Jones could make a decision, Ferguson wrote Turner a letter — and sent a copy to Kilpatrick.

Ferguson faxed Jones the letter.

“I became very upset,” Jones said. “I told him I didn’t think that behavior was appropriate.”

Robert Snell

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