DETROIT -

Executives overseeing the $146 million redevelopment of the Book Cadillac hotel said Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and other city officials pressured them to hire the mayor's friend, Bobby Ferguson, as a contractor even though the developers believed he was not the best qualified for the job, according to a newspaper report.

Two executives who worked for the parent company heading the project told the Detroit Free Press that Ferguson Enterprises Inc. got a $7 million Book Cadillac contract despite concerns by project managers that Ferguson lacked the experience to do interior demolition and asbestos removal on a high-rise building.

The executives told the newspaper they hired Ferguson to avoid potential problems with the city.

Ferguson denied the Free Press? allegation, and the mayor?s office released a statement refuting "any claims that outside influences have any impact whatsoever on decisions regarding the awarding of city contracts. Bids are won through an impartial and unbiased process."

In the meantime, a Detroit City Council committee approved plans Friday to investigate city contracts with Ferguson.