HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) - The target of Thursday’s FBI raid in Highland Park is claiming federal agents are asking questions about city contracts with indicted contractor Bobby Ferguson. Action News Investigator Heather Catallo has been looking into Ferguson’s contracts in Highland Park for months.
Even though Bobby Ferguson has been indicted on several federal corruption charges related to his contracts in Detroit -- the Investigators have discovered that Ferguson is doing new demolition work in Highland Park. And that means Mr. Ferguson is still getting paid with your tax dollars, despite being accused of several crimes.
In mid-January, Bobby Ferguson’s demolition crews were hard at work.. tearing down abandoned homes in Highland Park.
Action News cameras even captured the controversial contractor himself.. walking around one of the job sites.. enjoying a cigar. A federal grand jury indicted Ferguson in September on money laundering, conspiracy, mail fraud, and other charges. Ferguson has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The indictment alleges Kwame Kilpatrick’s pal got millions of dollars in public works contracts through bid collusion and fraud as part of his work on this public housing complex, funded by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
The demolition projects the Action News Investigators found Ferguson working on in Highland Park are also funded by HUD. So why is a contractor accused of so many crimes still getting paid with tax dollars?
Here’s what several people in Highland Park had to say about Ferguson’s contracts:
“If he’s been indicted, then he should be punished, so why is he getting our tax dollars for Highland Park,” asked Ayeshia Brown.
“Anybody with questionable character should not be given the opportunity or the right to take tax dollars,” said Mack Stewart.
“I don’t think he should be bidding on anything. I think he should be held accountable for what he’d done,” said Mary McEady.
Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp signed three contracts with Ferguson Enterprises in August. Once the demolition of the homes is complete, Bobby Ferguson will be paid $306,950 with public HUD funds.
Even though Ferguson started the work on January 18th, the contracts were signed three weeks before Ferguson’s original indictment in September. That means Highland Park can honor the contracts.
But the Investigators discovered that Ferguson was still bidding on new projects in January – after he was suspended in the HUD system because of the indictments.
It was clear no one wanted any part of appearing in this story about Ferguson. Officials from HUD and the state housing agency that distributes the funds would not talk on camera.. and even though the Highland Park mayor’s signature is on the contracts – he avoided us as well.
Despite several phone calls and in-person requests for an interview –Mayor Yopp refused to come downstairs to the lobby in city hall to talk to Catallo.
“I know the mayor is up there, though,” said Catallo.
“I can’t get up there though,” said a Highland Park police officer.
While I waited about two hours to talk to Mayor Yopp – during that time the mayor accidentally called me, and I was able to overhear a conversation between Yopp and his chief of staff.
“The mayor doesn’t realize that he dialed my cell phone… He says he’s going to avoid me,” reported Catallo as the conversation unfolded.
Eventually, Mayor Yopp issued a written statement, saying Ferguson has the presumption of innocence, and quote, “The City of Highland Park has no reason to believe that any inappropriateness ever existed in its business relationship with Mr. Ferguson or with Ferguson Enterprises.”
After the Action News Investigators questioned the Ferguson contracts, the city sent this letter to Ferguson, telling him he is no longer qualified to bid on projects.
The state housing agency, MSHDA, that administers the HUD funds admitted they should have notified Highland Park about Ferguson’s suspension in the HUD system. As a result of our report, the state is changing their procedure: when they learn about any suspension of a contractor, they will alert cities about who not to accept bids from.
The March 10th FBI raid is allegedly about older Ferguson contracts in Highland Park – it’s not clear if these new contracts are related to that probe. Action News did contact Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer to find out what he had to say about this – but he has not gotten back to us yet. Ferguson has pleaded not guilty to the charges detailed in his indictment, and at the time of these new contracts he was technically eligible to get the contracts.
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