City contractor says he paid Ferguson $1M for no work

DETROIT (WXYZ) - He didn't want to upset Bobby Ferguson-- that's what the owner of a construction company told the jury repeatedly in the Kilpatrick corruption case.

Federal prosecutors questioned the president of A & H Contractors for more than three hours Friday in the Kilpatrick corruption trial.

Thomas Hardiman says he helped get Kwame Kilpatrick elected, and even served on his transition team so he wouldn't have thought he'd have trouble getting city water department business for his previous partnership with Avinash Rachmale and Lakeshore Engineering Services.

But Hardiman told the jury today that after he refused to give the former mayor's friend Bobby Ferguson a cut of both a $5 Million contract and a $10 Million contract back in 2003 – he says he couldn't get answers from anyone as to why the deals were stalled.

Hardiman even paid Bernard Kilpatrick's company $2500 to find out why water department director Victor Mercado wasn't moving the contracts forward.

Both Kwame and Bernard Kilpatrick, Ferguson, and Mercado are on trial, facing federal racketeering charges.

Hardiman says he was "stunned" when the deals got canceled – so in the future, Lakeshore teamed up with Ferguson's companies.

Hardiman told the jury he paid Ferguson more than $2 million. Hardiman says Ferguson did not do any work for that money, but Hardiman did not want to do anything to upset the powerful contractor.

On another east side water project, Hardiman said Ferguson forced him to give up four streets on a seven street deal, which meant paying Ferguson's company another $1.4 million.

Hardiman says he often tried to refuse Ferguson and the two would curse at each other, but he says Ferguson always won when he threatened to shut the projects down.

One time, Hardiman said Ferguson called him up and demanded $25,000 and he wanted it that day. Hardiman said he and his employees rushed to cash checks to come up with the $25,000 – though he did say Ferguson never insisted that it be in cash.

While Hardiman's testimony was shocking, defense attorneys say, don't judge until you hear from them next week.

"Obviously I'm not going to telegraph the punch, but like I've been telling you, the case is in the cross examination. And when this witness is subjected to cross examination you are going to hear a completely different story, so stay tuned," said Ferguson attorney Mike Rataj.

"I'm sure the jury is getting used to the idea now that they've got to listen to everything before they draw any conclusions," said Mercado attorney John Minock.

Federal prosecutors still have more questions for Hardiman on Monday. Then he'll face extensive cross-examination from all four defense teams.

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