Day 20: Kilpatrick stepped in once Bobby Ferguson was told he lost city bid

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones ( rjones ) blogged all the details to come from testimony at the Kilpatrick corruption trial.  Follow along below:

12:50--All done: We're done for the day.  Testimony resumes tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

12:48--Another job: Ferguson and Ferguson-related companies received approximately $17 million from another Detroit water main replacement project.  The payments came from other firms: Lakeshore Engineering, A & H and others. We expect we'll hear more on this tomorrow.

12:43--Victor chimes in: In a text that Mercado sent to Mayor Kilpatrick, he wrote:

"Just thought of something.  Trying locate evaluations on contr from city depts. To see for grounds.  Also may look into delaying work.  Hopefully wii have more info tomorrow"

Please note: these text messages have lots of spelling and grammatical errors.  I'm trying to represent them as they are shown to us in court.

12:29--Kilpatrick intervened: When he learned he had not been selected to perform work on the city's water mains, Ferguson sent a text to Kilpatrick: "victor just out smarted us, he just had me come to his office, I thought it was about the job we have, it was about the three lowest bidders, white folks."

12:25--Kilpatrick knew: Text messages shown in court indicate that Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson were in communication about city work just prior to it being announced.

On March 22, 2004, Ferguson texted Kilpatrick: " I need zeke to call victor and tell him he wants to review recommendations for the downtown contractors prior to the final decision being made."

Zeke was Kilpatrick's close friend and top aide, Derrick Miller.  

Kilpatrick responded he would.

Ferguson wrote back: "You will tell him sir, real soon they are trying to move fast, thank you not rushing the boss just don't won't this to get by us"

Sorry for the delay in blog posts.  Had to do a live update 7 Action News at Noon.

11:34--Conrad Mallett: Mallett, who DLZ hired as a liaison to help get city business, told Rajadhyaksh that including Bobby Ferguson on work would be appreciated by the Mayor, Rajadhyaksh testified.

11:28--Fired by his brother: Rajadhyaksh was fired by his brother in a previous business endeavor, Rataj points out.  He's trying to paint the witness as a combative, reckless employee that even his own brother couldn't stand. 

11:21--Combative: Rataj and Rajadhyaksh have become somewhat combative during this cross-examination (for regular readers of the blog, you'll notice that Rataj often gets into dust-ups with witnesses).  I have to wonder how that will play with the jury.  Rataj clearly has a stellar track record in the courtroom and has won some big cases, so perhaps it's a winning strategy. 

11:08--Previous company's troubles: Rataj says that Rajadhyaksh's previous company failed to post a bond for a city work (which is a form of insurance used in case a disaster occurs on the project) many years ago, and said it cost the city millions of dollars. Why is this relevant?  Rataj is trying to show the jury that DLZ was a reckless company that put the city at risk, while his client Ferguson did honest work ahead of schedule and under budget.

11:03--He got the job done: Rataj is pointing out that his client Bobby Ferguson did the work Rajadhyaksh wanted him to do, and completed the work early.

10:54--We're back: With Rataj's cross-examination resuming.

10:28--Short break: Stay with us, folks. 

10:25--Is it hot in here? Rataj and Judge Nancy Edmunds are getting into something of a dust up.  Edmunds takes issue with how Rataj is reading a transcript to the witness without formally introducing it as evidence (which is standard court procedure).  When urged by Edmunds to do so, Rataj opened his arms in frustration.

Shortly thereafter, the judge decided it would be a good time to take a break.

10:23--Credibility issues: Rataj is trying to suggest that Rajadhyaksh used his connections inside the water department to find out "what's coming down the pipeline."  Rajadhyaksh says he wanted to have good relationships, but not that he received any insider information.  Rataj's point?  DLZ wasn't a choir boy.  

10:17--Bulldog's up: Cross-examining Rajadhyaksh now is Ferguson lawyer (and resident bulldog) Mike Rataj.  He's trying to point out small errors in a report filed by EPA agent Carol Paskevich--part of the government's team--surely hoping to raise credibility issues about Paskevich's findings.  Will it matter to the jury, or will it look like nitpicking?

10:11--Not in testimony: For the first time this trial, Mercado lawyer Martin Crandall is cross-examining a witness.  He was up for only a few minutes, but his cross was effective.  He pointed out that Rajadhyaksh never said-- in his previous grand jury testimony--that Mercado told him he was pressured to give Ferguson work.  Rajadhyaksh said his recollection is that Mercado did tell him that, but agrees that he never mentioned it to the grand jury earlier.

The question defense lawyers want the jurors to consider: how could Rajadhyaksh leave that out of his grand jury testimony, but mention it today?

10:02--Bernard's lawyer up: Well this is interesting.  We expected the first defense lawyer to cross-examine Rajadhyaksh to be either Kwame Kilpatrick's, Bobby Ferguson's or Victor Mercado's.  But it's John Shea who represents Bernard Kilpatrick--whose name hasn't even been mentioned in this trial today--that's up first. 

He's using this opportunity, though, to ask about the "liaison" DLZ hired to help get city business.  In this case, DLZ hired Conrad Mallet, a well-known city lawyer. 

"It's not unusual (to hire a liaison)," Rajadhyaksh said. 

Remember, Shea's client Bernard Kilpatrick was a consultant or "liaison" hired by contractors hoping to get city business. He's been accused of shaking down those businesses. Shea is surely trying to suggest to the jury that a company can hire a "liaison" without it being improper. 

9:58--More pressure: Rajadhyaksh is harping on what he deemed frustration by Mercado to favor Bobby Ferguson in city work.

"He seemed to be under a lot of pressure to give Mr. Ferguson work, and he was getting tired of it," Rajadhyaksh said.

He recalled several phone calls that Mercado would receive during meetings, which he believed were calls from Ferguson. 

"After (Mercado) hung up, he'd say, "I don't know what to do about this guy,' " Rajadhyaksh testified.

9:54--Never heard of it: Asst. U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell is asking Rajadhyaksh if he's ever heard of what's called the "average cost method," a formula used by the city to re-evaluate the bids it received (including Ferguson's) which resulted in Ferguson's bid being deemed the best. 

Rajadhyaksh said he'd never heard of that method.

9:48--Certification pulled: Around the same time, Rajadhyaksh says that DLZ had its certification pulled as a city contractor.  That effectively froze DLZ out of future city work.  Except Rajadhyaksh says his company was properly certified as a Detroit-based and minority-owned business, and showed the jury a record showing his company was properly certified.

9:47--Didn't get new work: Rajadhyaksh says he was stunned when his company wasn't selected by the city later on for a new water main project in which he didn't partner with Ferguson's company. 

9:44--Not impressed: As a reporter who's covered Ferguson Enterprises for a while, I've only heard good things about his work in construction and demolition. Rajadhyaksh, though, was clearly not a fan of his work, saying it was often over-priced and usually behind schedule. 

9:40--Mercado calls: When Rajadhyaksh awarded a part of the water main project to a company that wasn't Ferguson's, he said he received a phone call from a concerned Victor Mercado.  He wanted to know "why that was happening," Rajadhyaksh said, and why Ferguson didn't receive the work.

Rajadhyaksh told him he was concerned that Ferguson had been behind schedule on other projects, and didn't think he could get the job done in time.  Mercado, he says, understood.  

9:35--Change orders frequent, high: We've been talking a lot about change orders the last couple of days.  Those are essentially price mark-ups in city work when a contractor runs into unforeseen circumstances.  They're very common when working on the city's very old water mains, but Rajadhyaksh says Ferguson submitted them often, and usually for large price mark-ups. 

9:25--Bobby upset: Rajadhyaksh says he was concerned by the quality of Ferguson's past work with the city and wrote the water department a letter outlining his concerns.  He said he received a phone call from an irate Ferguson, who was upset with the letter. Rajadhyaksh said he wanted the department director to know he was concerned.  

"Don't worry about the director, you need to worry about me," Rajadhyaksh says Ferguson responded. 

"It meant he was in close contact with people above Mr. Mercado," Rajadhyaksh said. 

9: 20-- Mercado wanted Ferguson: Rajadhyaksh says that, before the water contracts were awarded, Victor Mercado told him he wanted Bobby Ferguson, the mayor's good friend, to receive a contract.

"He would like Ferguson to get some of the work on this project," Rajadhyaksh testified.

Rajadhyaksh said there was a feeling that Ferguson was favored by the mayor. 

"Anything you can do to help Bobby would be well-received by the mayor," he said.

9:18--Super Bowl coming up: Time was of the essence, Rajadhyaksh said.  The Super Bowl and All-Star game were fast approaching, and Mercado told DLZ that it needed to fast-track this project.

9:16--3 lowest bidders: DLZ recommended that the 3 lowest bidders receive work for the water main replacement project, but also wanted to allow other minority contractors to get in on the work as well, he says.  To meet that goal, Rajadhyaksh encouraged Bobby Ferguson's minority-based company and two others to try to get their prices "in line" with the rest, so that there would be a minority presence in the construction work.

9:12--DLZ's job: Rajadhyaksh is describing how DLZ was hired by the city oversee contracting procedures for a downtown water main replacement project.  He was hired after working with the city on a pilot project that earned high-marks from Water Dept. Chief Victor Mercado.  Rajadhyaksh said he worked with Bobby Ferguson on the pilot program, and described his performance as "okay."

"Mr. Ferguson was always looking for more change orders, but that was okay, we got it done," Rajadhyaksh said.

9:05--Next witness: Up now to testify is Pratap Rajadhyaksh, the former chief operating officer of DLZ, a company that oversaw water contracting in the city's sewerage department. The feds say DLZ had its certification with the city pulled unexpectedly when it was about to recommend contracts to non-Ferguson related companies.

9:00--Edwards on the stand? For the last two days, the only witness we've heard from has been Detroit Water and Sewerage Department employee Daniel Edwards, who's testified about water contract procedures. It doesn't always make for the most gripping testimony, but it's important nonetheless. It's not clear if he'll be back today.

8:57--Happy anniversary!  Well, sort of. Today marks the 20th day of trial and, wouldn't you know it, I forgot to buy a gift. 

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