Rumors swirled early about Kilpatrick favoring pal

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, left, walks with Bobby Ferguson as abandoned homes are torn down in Detroit in 2002.

There were rumors swirling three months into ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s tenure that city contracts were being steered to his pal, Bobby Ferguson, according to testimony Thursday.

Kilpatrick’s lawyer showed jurors an internal memo from one of contractor Tony Soave’s lawyers to suggest the Grosse Pointe Farms businessman was relying on gossip to conclude the mayor was steering work to Ferguson.

Soave’s lawyer sent him a memo in March 2002 expressing concern about the mayor delaying contracts. The contracts were previously awarded to companies headed by businessmen — like Soave — who supported Kilpatrick’s rival in the 2001 election: Councilman Gil Hill — who played a foul-mouthed police inspector in “Beverly Hills Cop.”

From the memo:

“We have heard through several sources that contracts involving anyone who supported Gil Hill are being messed with and/or other contracts are being scrutinized to try to get work to a group of contractors who supported Kilpatrick in his election…in particular, Bobby Ferguson, Frank Torre, Lakeshore Engineering.”

The memo also alleged 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.

The memo prompted Soave to meet with Kilpatrick in April 2002.

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

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