Contractor says he kept Bobby Ferguson on team to save city contracts

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A successful Detroit contractor told the jury in the Kilpatrick Corruption Trial that he gave Bobby Ferguson business because he was afraid he'd lose his city contracts.

Avinash Rachmale testified Thursday that he brought the mayor's friend into several water department deals – not because he needed Bobby Ferguson's expertise – but because he just wanted to keep his city business.

"I'm still under oath," Rachmale told reporters outside the court, declining to answer any questions.

Inside, he spent hours telling the jury about the growth of his company and his relationship with Detroit's former mayor and his friends.

Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and former city contractor Bobby Ferguson are all on trial, accused of lining their pockets by extorting other city contractors.

Rachmale is the chairman of Lakeshore Toltest, which used to be known as Lakeshore Engineering Services.  He testified that he was afraid to leave long-time Kilpatrick pal Ferguson out of his water department deals.

Rachmale said that after he and his former business partner refused to give Ferguson 25 percent of a project back in 2003 – the contract got cancelled.

Rachmale said he was so stunned and devastated, he had stomach aches and couldn't go into his office.  After that he said,"we concluded we should have had Ferguson on our team."

Lakeshore then added Ferguson Enterprises to their proposals with the water department, giving him 36 percent of the deals, even when Rachmale said he didn't deserve that much.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Rachmale if he needed Ferguson Enterprises to remove contaminated materials, or to do the excavating work.  Rachmale said, he didn't need Bobby Ferguson to do any work, he just needed him on the team to "save the project."

Federal prosecutors also showed the jury invoices Rachmale described as "false" that prosecutors say were created to justify Lakeshore's payments to Ferguson for a cut of some change orders Lakeshore was working on.

The government isn't done with Rachmale and Ferguson's attorney is cautioning everyone not to judge until both sides have questioned the witness.

"I don't want to say anything about their testimony; I just want to make sure everybody waits until it's done. You can draw your own conclusions whenever it's done," said Gerald Evelyn.

Rachmale's business partner, Tom Hardiman, also finally concluded his testimony after five days on the stand – and it was revealed in court that he has a limited immunity agreement with the government.

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