Kilpatrick pal called rival Detroit firm 'white folks'

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court.

Bobby Ferguson used racial terms to complain about a white-owned construction company that he later allegedly extorted $5 million from, according to text messages shown to jurors Friday.

The racial terms were contained in text messages Ferguson sent to his pal Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in fall 2002 regarding construction company Walbridge Aldinger.

Ferguson sent a text message to Kilpatrick on Sept. 11, 2002, asking the mayor to meet with Walbridge CEO John Rakolta Jr., a national finance co-chair for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Walbridge officials had complained about having difficulty getting access to Kilpatrick.

“We can use this to our advantage,” Ferguson texted.

John Rakolta Jr.

John Rakolta Jr.

Kilpatrick agreed to the meeting.

The next month, Ferguson sent Kilpatrick another text.

“Walbridge is not playing ball black man,” Ferguson texted the mayor on Oct. 21, 2002. “These white folks need to be made believers that they are not in control.”

“Will call later,” Kilpatrick texted.

Walbridge eventually partnered with Ferguson on a Detroit water project called Baby Creek.

According to prosecutors, Ferguson, former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado extorted Walbridge out of $5 million in work for Ferguson’s company.

From the City Hall corruption indictment:

“FERGUSON obtained this work by exploiting (Walbridge’s) fear that FERGUSON would use his relationship with KWAME KILPATRICK and other members of the Mayor’s Office to adversely impact (Walbridge’s) chances of winning the contract if they did not do so.”

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