Kilpatrick trial: New reasons for cancelling contracts?

(WXYZ) - After weeks of contractors telling the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case that they lost city business because they didn't hire the former mayor's friend, a different version of events emerged in court Wednesday.

Were the water department contracts known as 1361 and 1387 cancelled because of a criminal enterprise at work-- or to cut costs?

On Wednesday, Detroit Water Department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer agreed with defense attorneys that one contract was dropped and the other rolled into another project to save money.

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and his friend Bobby Ferguson are on trial, accused of lining their pockets by steering water department business to Ferguson's companies. Ex-water department director Victor Mercado already pleaded guilty to a lesser conspiracy charge in the case.

During the last several weeks, Thomas Hardiman and Avinash Rachmale from Lakeshore Engineering testified that they felt Lakeshore lost the $10 Million contract 1361 and the $5 Million contract 1387 when they didn't put Ferguson on their team.

Ferguson defense lawyer Mike Rataj showed Latimer dozens of internal water department documents about contract 1387. Memo's, letters, and faxes revealed that DWSD supervisors were concerned that certain engineers were trying to improperly steer business to Lakeshore, and that the contract just wasn't needed. Latimer testified that lakeshore was never even awarded that project.

When Rataj said, "to suggest Lakeshore lost $ 5 Million is incorrect," Latimer agreed.

"The case is always in the cross examination. And what we were trying to do is use Mr. Latimer to show that basically the government has no case," said Rataj.

Latimer also agreed with the defense that cost savings were at stake when they suggested the other $10 Million Lakeshore contract got rolled into a project already being handled by Inland Waters, which was owned by prominent businessman Tony Soave at the time.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Latimer testified that it "didn't look good" when Mercado told him to recalculate the bids on a different project. Federal prosecutors say a new method was used to score proposals so that companies that had teamed up with Ferguson would win. Today, Kilpatrick's attorney Jim Thomas suggested the bids were re-done because a firm embroiled in a lawsuit with the city that had low-balled the department would have won if they hadn't taken another look at the scoring.

"Obviously Mr. Latimer answered my questions in my estimation as honestly and truthfully as he could, and at the end of the day, we were able to cast serious doubt on the allegations in the indictment," said Rataj.

Mr. Latimer will be back on the stand Thursday for more cross examination, and then the government will get to ask him some more questions.

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