Kilpatrick trial: Witness says Ferguson threatened her job

(WXYZ) - A Detroit construction project manager testified in the Kilpatrick corruption trial Monday that Bobby Ferguson threatened her job with the city.

LaJuan Wilks was the construction project coordinator who oversaw the Heilmann Recreation Center renovation in 2003.

Wilks told the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case that she was surprised that a joint venture between JOA Construction and Bobby Ferguson's Xcel Construction won the bid for the $7 Million project.

Wilks testified that their proposal scored second to last and that when representatives from the joint venture came in for their presentation, it was underwhelming.

Ferguson, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, are on trial, accused of racketeering and bid rigging.

Wilks also told the jury that there were design flaws with the project, and that there were never enough people on the construction site. She said she raised concerns that Ferguson's same employees couldn't be on site for both the Heilmann project and another water department project at the same time, and questioned whether they were double dipping. Wilks says after that, she ended up in her boss' office.

Wilks told the jury that Ferguson was there – and they ended up shouting at each other. Ultimately, she says, with Ferguson telling her the only reason she still had her job was because she was black.

Wilks said she felt attacked, and that her job was threatened by Ferguson, because she knew he had a connection to Kilpatrick.

Wilks says she immediately called Tyrone Clifton at the Detroit Building Authority to tell him what happened.

Ferguson lead attorney Gerald Evelyn questioned whether there was proof of Wilks' comments about the alleged double billing, and got her to admit no one in the city ever told her that her job was in jeopardy.

Tyrone Clifton took the stand next. The DBA project manager agreed that the JOA/Xcel bid on the Heilmann project was short on details, but he says the project was a good one for the city.

"We did our due diligence and made our recommendation," Clifton told reporters outside Federal Court.

Clifton remembers the call from Wilks after her fight with Ferguson but testified that he did not think the mayor's friend could cause Wilks to lose her job.

"I don't believe a civil servant could get fired because of Bobby Ferguson. I don't,"

The head of the DBA at the time was Ayanna Benson – a second cousin of Kwame Kilpatrick. The former mayor appointed her, and the DBA board was made up of some of Kilpatrick's closest allies, including Christine Beatty and Derrick Miller.

Kilpatrick's lawyer asked whether Kilpatrick ever attended a DBA meeting – Clifton said no, and he said he was never pressured by the former mayor to do anything.

Lawyers will continue questioning Clifton Tuesday.
 

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