Kilpatrick too busy to be a crook, lawyer suggests

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

Defense lawyer James C. Thomas suggested Kwame Kilpatrick was too busy running for re-election in 2005 to head a criminal racket inside City Hall.

Thomas talked about the campaign grind with defense witness Sharon McPhail, a former city councilwoman who worked for Kilpatrick after losing the 2005 mayoral primary.

“It’s very intense,” McPhail testified while Kilpatrick leaned forward in his chair, listening intently. “You’re losing your voice, making speeches, it stretches into evenings, weekends, sometimes you hit 5 to 10 churches on a Sunday.”

Sharon McPhail

Sharon McPhail

Thomas also questioned McPhail about the city contract approval process.

McPhail said council members are briefed on each contract and can question various aspects of deals.

“And council can hold contracts?” Thomas asked.

“It has an absolute right to,” she said.

He showed her a $12 million contract change order for the firm Inland Waters, which allegedly was extorted by Kilpatrick. The firm was owned by Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave.

She didn’t recall the contract or change order.

Thomas questioned McPhail about a seven-month delay in the Inland contract and asked if that was typical.

Soave

Soave

“No,” she said, “they often take a long time.”

That testimony was aimed  at countering Soave’s previous testimony.

According to earlier testimony, Kilpatrick’s office was holding up a $50 million deal with Soave’s firm Inland Waters because the contract did not involve the right minority subcontractor.

Soave testified he met with Kilpatrick in April 2002.

The meeting allegedly ended with Soave dumping his minority contractor and hiring Bobby Ferguson, the mayor’s close friend.

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