Feds point to bids and text messages in Kilpatrick Corruption Trial

DETROIT (WXYZ) - You'll make the mayor happy if you hire his friend. That's what a construction project manager said he was told during the Kilpatrick Corruption Case.

The government put a contractor on the stand Wednesday who talked about how Bobby Ferguson told him not to worry about the head of the water department – he should be worrying about Ferguson and his powerful connections.

Pratap Rajadkyaksha told the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case that the former mayor's friend, Bobby Ferguson, was difficult to work with and that Ferguson was always looking for change orders to add to the price of a project.

Rajadkyaksha was once Chief Operating Officer of his brother's engineering firm, DLZ. He worked with Bobby Ferguson's companies on several downtown Detroit water main replacement projects to get the city ready for the Super Bowl.

Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, Ferguson, and former Detroit Water and Sewerage Department boss Victor Mercado are all on trial, accused of lining their pockets through bid rigging and extortion.

Earlier this week, a DWSD insider testified that a Ferguson joint venture edged DLZ out of a later project after water dept bosses told him to recalculate the bids by averaging the price all of the firms had submitted to get the deals. Rajadkyaksha told the jury today that in decades of experience, he had never heard of averaging bids to award a contract.

Rajadkyaksha testified that for the downtown water main deal, Mercado told him, "Anything you can do to help Bobby would be well received by the mayor."

During cross examination, Bernard Kilpatrick's attorney revealed to the jury that DLZ was paying Kwame Kilpatrick's former COO, Conrad Mallett, $5,000 a month to help the company get city work – just like the elder Kilpatrick was often hired as a consultant with the inside track.

"How do you as a business person who wants a client, or wants to maintain a client, how do you maintain customer relations. And what sorts of people do you use," said John Shea.

Mercado's attorneys then pointed out that in Rajadkyaksha's grand jury testimony and his interviews with federal agents – he had never before said it was Mercado that recommended Ferguson. Instead he said it was Mallett who suggested keeping Kilpatrick's favor by hiring the mayor's friend.

Ferguson's attorneys also questioned Rajadkyaksha – and pointed out that his own brother fired him, for allegedly making too many people in Detroit angry. Mike Rataj also got Rajadkyaksha to admit he frequently got insider information about upcoming water department deals.

The question is, will that combat his other testimony about the his run-ins with Ferguson?

The feds also put one of their own on the stand Wednesday to tell the jury about how they used text messages and financial records to investigate alleged extortion and bid rigging.

EPA Investigator Carol Paszkiewicz testified about several text message exchanges between Kwame Kilpatrick, Ferguson, and Mercado.

The agent told the jury that Ferguson's company's made money in two ways for a massive water main repair project that covered both the west and the east sides of the city. First he took in nearly $17 Million with a contract he got as part of a joint venture.

Special Agent Paskiewicz also said Ferguson scored about $4 Million by extorting Lakeshore Engineering, and their subcontractor, which had the deal for the other side of the city.

Federal prosecutors used text messages to fill in the gaps from testimony earlier this week about how Ferguson was angling to get the water department deals, allegedly with the former mayor's help.

Here's one exchange between Ferguson and Kilpatrick before lucrative contracts were awarded to repair water mains in the downtown core leading up to the super bowl.

Ferguson is referencing former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller when he says, "I need zeke to call victor and tell him he wants to review recommendations for the downtown contractors prior to the final decisions being made."

Kilpatrick replied, "COOL." Ferguson went on to say, "You will tell him sir, real soon they are trying to move fast, thank you not rushing the boss just don't want this to get by us."

This exchange occurred after Mercado approved a recommendation to use three of the lowest bidders on the big downtown water main deal – and Ferguson wasn't one of them, although he did get a deadline extension he was looking for on another project.

Ferguson says: "Just left victor. The date has been changed to my benefit, but we still have problem on the big one, he thinks he is slickman with this white folks."

Kilpatrick replied, "His slick s*** is running out. I got his a** on something else. I ain't happy."

The defense still has to cross-examine the federal agent – so expect to hear the other side of the text message story on Thursday. 

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