Day 18: Victor Mercado helped avoid oversight for work that went to Bobby Ferguson

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogged from federal court on day 18 of the Kilpatrick corruption trial.  Follow along below:

12:57--The end: And with that, we're done for the day.  Thanks for joining us.  We'll see you tomorrow morning at 9AM. 

12:53--Tough sledding: There's no other way to put it, folks: today's been a pretty dry day of testimony.  Water main replacement and contract procedures just doesn't have the same sizzle as money hidden in bras and deep-tissue massages, but this testimony is just as important as all the others.  The good news for jurors--two of which are already ill--is that court ends at 1PM. 

12:40--Unpredictable work: As expected, Minock is stressing that bids submitted by contractors are just estimates.  Edwards agrees.  He's trying to point out that these change orders, while they might seem surprisingly large, are really just the result of unforeseen circumstances.  You don't know what you're going to find, Minock says, until you start digging.

12:35--Mercado's lawyer up first: John Minock, who hasn't had a heck of a lot to do so far this trial, will be earning his pay with this witness.  He's up first to cross-examine. 

12:30--Short break: The defense will get a few minutes to catch its breath before cross-examining Edwards.  We'll resume shortly.

12:21--More change orders: Another company, Lakeshore Engineering, received scores of change orders.  The contract started at $13.5 million, but after four change orders, it ballooned to $55.6 million.

12:17--Big contract: Edwards is testifying about a $16 million contract that a joint-venture called Detroit Management Team, which included a company called Xcel, which Edwards testifies was owned by Ferguson.  He said the Detroit Management Team vaulted to #1 only after the method for ranking bids was changed. 

12:10--Sorry for the delay: Had to run outside to shoot a quick live shot for 7 Action News at Noon.

11:21--Contract explodes: Thanks to those change orders, Bobby Ferguson's contract amount went up almost four times in size. From $821,475, it was upped to $3,115,007.

Another Ferguson contract soared as well. From its original cost of about $270,000, it ballooned to $1,729,240. 

11:08--Short break: Stay with us.

10:57--More change orders: Ferguson cashed-in on even more change orders.  One contract doubled from its original price of about $465,000.

10:54--Price goes up: Ferguson received a "change order" for one of his two contracts to perform water main work.  Changer orders are a common part of the contracting process when working on large jobs like these.  The price went up about $400,000.  

10:48--Still gets work: DLZ, the project manager for the water main work, wanted the three lowest contractors to be awarded work by the city, but Ferguson still got it.  He was the second-highest bidder and $161/foot  higher than the lowest bidder.    He was awarded about $1.5 million from this project.

10:42--Ferguson was high: Out of ten companies, Ferguson's bid was the 2nd highest when compared by price-per-foot. The lowest bidder came in at $243/foot, while Ferguson Enterprises charged $404.

10:33--"Offered to Ferguson" Okay, here we go folks. Ferguson's company was offered, by the company chosen to be the project manager for this project, to head up the water main replacement along Washington Blvd.

10:30--"Replace them immediately"   The jury has just been shown a June 2003 memo written by Victor Mercado to Kwame Kilpatrick, telling him that the water mains downtown are in rough condition and "it is imperative to replace them immediately."  He asked for a "special administrative order" to expedite the process, which allowed the mayor to avoid oversight from the city council or water board. 

10:25--CM 2012: It seems that we may be getting away from generic contract talk, and are focusing on a contract called CM 2012, a project to replace water mains downtown.  This is a contract where Ferguson was involved.

10:01--Procedures: Edwards is going over how DWSD gives out contracts.  It's mostly a lot of procedural stuff, but I would bet that the feds want him to outline how the process should work so that the jury will notice when things veered off course. 

10:00--We're back: The ill juror(s) must be feeling better.  We're back.

9:33--The waiting game: We continue in a holding pattern here in Judge Nancy Edmunds' courtroom.  A reminder, we're already down two alternate jurors so there are only 4 left that we can choose from for the rest of the trial. When you're dealing with 16 jurors (12 plus the alternates), it's to be expected that you'll run into health issues along the way.  This is, after all, the start of cold and flu season. 

9:16--Ill jurors: Hold up folks.  We've got an ill juror, who seems to have left the courtroom.  Perhaps all the discussion of sewage contracts finally got to her. 

9:14--Avoiding oversight: Edwards is discussing how DWSD could award contracts without seeking approval by the board of water commissioners and city council.  Edwards said that would be done through a special administrator: historically, that has been the mayor of Detroit. Wonder which one they might be talking about?

9:11--Wake up, Victor: If Victor Mercado took the first 17 days of this trial to catch up on sleep (and who could blame him), he officially needs to wake up. For the first time in this trial, his name was just mentioned when Edwards was asked who ran DWSD in the mid 2000's.

9:07--First witness:  Daniel Edwards, who manages construction contracts for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD), is the government's first witness.  Expect that this means the trial will begin to focus more on Bobby Ferguson and, for the first time, former water department chief Victor Mercado. 

9:05--Back from Dallas: The former mayor took a nice weekend trip to Dallas to be with his family, as his Twitter account indicates. Surely that "D" was warmer than this "D."

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