Local 4 is inside the courtroom for the federal corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick's dad Bernard Kilpatrick and his childhood friend Bobby Ferguson. Each day we bring you information from inside federal court as it happens.
8:50AM It will be an abbreviated day for us today at the US District courthouse. Judge Nancy Edmunds announced yesterday that we will be ending today at 12:30pm as well as Thursday. Not sure why but I am not complaining.
Word has it that Bobby Ferguson's lawyer Susan Van Dusen will be rejoining the courtroom this morning. Van Dusen had a nasty fall last week when she slipped on a mat outside the courtroom and pitched forward face first onto the hard marble floor. The poor woman has been plagued by headaches and has been making visits to a neurologist. Hoping that she is feeling much. much better.
We will likely start off the morning with the cross-examination of government witness Tyrone Clifton, a project manager with the Detroit Building Authority (DBA), by Gerald Evelyn, another lawyer for Ferguson. Clifton testified yesterday that he was called by fellow witness LaJuan Wilks, a former employee of the Detroit Recreational department, who told him she feared Ferguson was threatening her job.
9:03AM Video turns on and there is Susan Van Dusen in a wine-colored sweater wrap. The court stenographer just got up to give her a great big hug.
Van Dusen was cross-examining executive Kathleen McCann last Monday before her accident. I wonder if she will continue her cross after the defense finishes with Clifton.
We've just been informed by a court officer that a juror has been delayed due to an accident on I-94. May be another 15 minutes or so before we can get started. Let's hope it's earlier than that.
Prosecutors and defense counsel have all just gotten up likely headed to judge's chambers. That leaves behind Kwame Kilpatrick, Ferguson, Bernard Kilpatrick and a gentleman who accompanies Ferguson every day that I can only describe as a "handler."
wyers just filtered back into the courtroom. No sign of Judge Edmunds yet.
9:26AM Judge Edmunds entered the courtroom but Kwame just bolted out the door. Jim Thomas, his lawyer, tells the judge he'll be back in a second. Witness Tyrone Clifton is standing by the witness stand getting ready to continue his testimony. Kwame is back and so is jury. Judge welcomes Van Duson back to the courtroom.
9:29AM Gerald Evelyn begins cross-examination of Clifton. Clifton confirms he was the project manager on the Heilmann project. Clifton says he has been with the DBA since July 1st 2002, previous to that he worked in the construction industry. He ran his own construction company.
Clifton agrees that he works with contractors a lot and that sometimes he needs to be aggressive with contractors. Says he has yelled at contractors and they have yelled at him. "It comes with the job." Clifton says usually he does the yelling. He has never yelled at Bobby Ferguson though. Clifton says in his experience architects usually need to get pushed. Witness found Michael Woodhouse and Calvin Hall of Xcel Construction to be effective. Evelyn speaks so quickly, judge tells him to slow down. "I think fast and talk fast," says Evelyn. Clifton says he had dealt with LaJuan Wilks, another witness in the trial who testified yesterday about her involvement with the Heilmann project and her difficulties with Ferguson. Clifton says he had communications with Wilks on the project. Evelyn asking about the conversation he had with Wilks about her confrontation with Ferguson. Clifton says she stated they were in an argument and it was very heated. Clifton states again she was very upset. Witness told her she had no cause for concern. "I felt she was in no danger of losing her job," says Clifton. Looking at the Request for Proposal for the Heilmann project. States that it is a proposal for the renovation of the Heilmann Recreational Center that is not to exceed $7 million. See list of what the city wanted in the center. Paragraph in the document states that the DBA reserves the right to reject all proposals. DBA doesn't intend to award contracts based on the responses to the RFP. Another paragraph discusses the "economy of preparation", states that presentation should be simple and clear and devoid of fancy binders. Clifton says he would get communication from JOA/Xcel team. He would coordinate activities to get the project moved forward. Looking at a memorandum from April 27th 2004 to the DBA from Michael woodhouse of Xcel regarding Heilmann. Woodhouse waiting for zoning approval which is causing significant delays. Says winter enclosures are going to be pashed which will incur winter heating costs. Asking to expedite zoning approval to reduce additional costs incurred. Clifton doesn't recall the memo but doesn't dispute it. It is something typical of such a project agrees the witness. Another Woodhouse memo on July 1st 2003, looking for DBA budget approval for a $15,000 line item to provide a Level 1 Environmental Assessment. Another hold up to the project. Judge requests a sidebar.
9:50AM Evelyn admits more documents into evidence. Thomas comes up to Evelyn at the podium and whispers in his ear for a moment. Evelyn asks to approach the witness with one of the documents.
Looking at May 9th 2003 memo to La Juan Wilks from Bobby Toliver of Xcel. Addresses a request from Wilks about pool temperature she is asking for. Not sure why this is important.
Clifton says he was satisfied with the results on the Heilmann Recreational facility. Evelyn asks if it was a nice facility.
"It was alright," says the witness. He steps down.
9:55AM FBI agent Bob Beeckman is back on the stand yet again. Jennifer Blackwell for the government. She has just introduced a bunch of things into evidence which I can only assume are all texts. Blackwell asking about texts on Heilmann. Talking about Wilks's boss Vincent Anwunah who answered to Lee Stephenson, deputy director of the city rec department, and before that to a Mr. Hautau.
Text message between Ferguson and Anwunah. April 16th 2003.
FE:Heilmann rec center is it a design building and when is it coming out.
A: Yes, it is design build it will be coming out this week or next.
F:I need to talk to you first is Dick gone.
A: Yes Dick is gone as far as decision making.
F: Ok we need to meet on the project.
Dick refers to Dick Hautau, Anwunah's boss.
Text exchange between Beatty and Ferguson. June 10th 2003
F: Need to see you for 5 minutes when is that possible ma’am
B: Thursday or Friday would be good.
F: Ok hope you haven’t met with Mrs. Benson yet
B: No I haven’t
Benson is Ayanna Benson, the director of the DBA and Kwame's second cousin. Ferguson seems to want to tell Beatty to tell Benson what to do. Benson reported to board of directors chaired by Beatty who was Chief of Staff at the time. The bid for Heilmann publicly opened on June 19th.
Thomas asks for sidebar.
Exchange between Anwunah and Ferguson on June 18th 2003.
A: Congratulations for tomorrow.
F: Ok what happen good.
A: Your team got Heilmann
F: Yeah I know, thanks, also call that guy from dwsd.
Exchange between Ferguson and Beatty on June 19th 2003.
FE: Thank You I love you you are for sure my sister.
B: What did I do?
B: Oh, you know I was going to take care of you.
F: Thank you
Jury asks to slow down and review text.
Exchange between mayor and Beatty. On June 19th 2003 day of project is awarded.
mayor: I'll feel better when I see you!
B: All!! Ditto!!! I'm at the DBA board meeting. I thought the civic center changes were being made through the DBA?
Text exchange about tailor made suits for Stephenson. Between Anwunah and Ferguson. October 29th 2003.
A: Sir I am calling you as you requested. Lee was in my office when I tried to reach you. He wants to know time and when we are going.
F: I can meet you at the tailor at 1:30 today. is that cool. I know that it is short notice.
A: where is the tailor located?
F: 112 Clifford St next to Madison building.
A: Yes he will be ready at 1:30
Nick Sereno is the tailor.
Exchange between Eugenia Blake and Ferguson October 31st 2003.
Fe: Ask him for me or for lee who he is making suits for. Lee is the big guy he is making the suits for
B: Nick the tailor says he needs Lee to come in for more measurements...
B: I just spoke with Nick the tailor and told him that you and Mr. Stephens will be there on Monday november 3rd.
Missed most of this exchange about Blake and Ferguson on December 16th 2003.
B: Nick the tailor just called and says he has your coat ready and Mr. Stephenson garments too. please call him at.
F: Thank you.
Anwunah and Ferguson. December 18th 2003
A: Were you able to go to nick's place
F: Done he can pick up one suit of his choice and I can pay for the rest Monday.
A: Thank you.
Anwunah and Ferguson on December 29th 2003.
A: Hey merry Christmas and happy New Year. I hope you are having a great time. Lee talked to me this morning...
F: damn I didn't pay for it all wait until Tuesday...
A: ok I have told him to wait. Do you want him to wait until tomorrow?
Incomplete exchange because prosecutor is going way too quickly.
Slow down Blackwell. Ferguson and Carmen Cunnigham December 30th 2003.
F: Man I forgot I was leaving town I will be back tonight and pay for the suits in the am. I think my office has the check you can take it over in the am..
F: Carmen cut this check call nick.
C: $3360- is that right.
F: it sounds right but he won't take the check from no one but me.
Nick is the tailor. Anwunah was Wilks boss at the Detroit rec department. He called Ferguson "Boss" testifies Beeckman.
10:20AM Thomas cross-examines Beeckman.
Talking about the lines of authority. There were about 6 lines to get to LaJuan Wilks. No evidence that she ever spoke to Kilpatrick about her handling of the Heilmann matter.
Looking at exchange between mayor and Beatty on June 19th 2003.
mayor: I'll feel better when I see you!
B: Ditto!!! I'm at the DBA board meeting. I thought the civic center changes were being made through the DBA?
Thomas asking if at that point it seemed to Beatty that changes were being made through the DBA. Yes says Beeckman.
Thomas has nothing further.
10:27AM Evelyn cross-examines Beeckman.
Evelyn has to temper some pretty damaging texts the government just introduced. Thomas says they were misinterpreted. Wonder what Evelyn will say. Looking at minutes from DBA meeting. Looking at Cobo Hall project done by White/Xcel venture. Looks like it was a well-received contract/project. Beeckman says proposals for Heilmann project "opened" on June 19th 2003. Looking at June 3rd 2003 letter from DBA to JOA/Xcel about Request for Proposal for the Heilmann project. Judge says there is some ambiguity that needs to be cleared up about when project was opened up. Beeckman says about awarding of the project on June 19th. Beeckman says the proposals were earlier. Beeckman steps down. Evelyn did not touch a single of Ferguson's texts about the tailor and suits for Stephenson.
10:34AM New witness takes the stand. Eric Doeh for the government. Sean Werdlow, currently an investment banker with a NYC firm. Before was with the city of Detroit Finance Department. Worked under Archer, starting in 1994, and the Kilpatrick administration. Under Archer, he was #3 or 4 in the department. Between administrations, VP of finance for the Detroit Medical Center. Started with city under Kilpatrick in 2002 as Chief Financial Officer. Werdlow says he didn't know mayor for long when he was appointed to the position. Attended cabinet level meetings in the city. They were held every Monday or every other Monday. All the "chiefs", directors of the large departments were at the meetings. Witness knew Beatty, Derrick Miller who were present at the meetings. Knew Ferguson, met him early on in the administration. Werdlow says that mayor would make flattering remarks about Ferguson at the meetings when projects would come up. "Let's give it to my guy Bobby" or "I would like for my guy bobby to get it" is what mayor would say when projects were discussed at meetings. Nothing too out of the ordinary says witness. Projects or Super Bowl that would come up says witness. Werdlow says that the mayor did make specific mention of Ferguson.
Shortly after Werdlow became CFO, he revised finance directives because they were antiquated. They were from the 70s for the most part and needed updating. There were at least 50 finance directives that impacted all the departments. Therefore, Werdlow let the mayor know what he was doing with regards to the revisions. Memo about competition for city of Detroit contracts. Beatty is listed as a recipient. Ayanna Benson, head of the DBA, also a recipient. Now looking at actual memorandum on September 10th 2002. Competition for city of Detroit contracts. From finance department- states "all contracts should be awarded through an open and fair competitive process". Spelling out to all department directors how contracts should be entered into. This includes professional services, like a consultant to the city. Should be governed by "code of ethics" and "be governed by the highest ideals of honor and integrity." Werdlow says that when you are contracting with firms as the government, you should be transparent. Talks about "merit the respect and inspire the confidence" of the public being served. "City employees should seek or dispense no personal favors" and "not accept gifts, gratuity or other things of value from suppliers"!!!!! Werdlow says it's pretty clear what that means. Werdlow says this was a directive to all departments, "something that you absolutely have to follow." Jones Lang Lasalle, a company that did some work for the city in 2003 and 2004. A real estate company. Staubauch, owned by Roger Staubauch of the Dallas Cowboys. City did a real estate assessment with Jones Lang Lasalle says the witness. Inventory of buildings and leases of the police department. Jones Lasalle Land hired to revevaluate leases. It was a very big job. Christine Beatty and Derrick Miller were involved in crime lab project with Staubauch. Miller brought Jones Lang Lasalle to take over the project which evolved into something else. Werdlow says no such decision could be made without the mayor's knowledge.
10:57AM Judge calls for 20 minute break.
11:15AM Thomas and Kwame are sitting alone in the courtroom talking to each other intensely.
People are starting to come back into the courtroom slowly. Liking Bernard's royal blue tie and dark suit today. Kwame pulled out a bow tie for this morning- it's been weeks since I last remember seeing him wear one.
11:22AM Doeh continues with Werdlow.
Werdlow says most department heads are appointees and even the non-appointees report to mayor. Witness says if they didn't report to mayor, they reported to Beatty or Miller. Werdlow reported to the mayor. Witness was also in charge of the purchasing department.
US Attorney Mark Chutkow flipping through a catalogue looking thing with Jim Thomas behind Doeh.
Werdlow says he signed off on contracts between city and contractors. Werdlow says that the mayor could have prevented that but it was never an issue. Werdlow says the DBA was specially created for construction projects in the city. Before the DBA's existence, it was a very cumbersome process. To get anything built, you had to go through the DBA. Werdlow's responsibilities were oversight and to approve contracts. Werdlow, Beatty, Wendell Anthony, Derrick miller possibly on board of DBA. Witness says Ayanna Benson's boss was her cousin the mayor. Werdlow says he knew that Beatty and Benson knew each other. Werdlow knows Vincent Anwunah who used to work with the DBA. Also knows Lee Stephenson who was for a short period the director of the city recreation department.
Werdlow became aware of the Heilmann project in 2003. It came before the DBA when he was a member of the board. He knows about the evaluation committee for the Heilmann project. He knew most of the members of the committee. He knew Tyrone Clifton who was on the evaluation committee for Heilmann. Werdlow says he relied on their recommendations because the committee was identified as persons having a certain expertise. "Yeah, we really heavily on them." Werdlow talking about meetings to vote on contracts before the DBA. Werdlow looking at set of minutes from June 19th 2003 meeting for the DBA board of commissioners (witness, Carl Collins and Christine Beatty). Werdlow requested that the DBA staff provide the board copies of the bid sheets for the Project. Witness can't recall why he made this request. But usually it's because he needed additional information to feel comfortable on how he voted.
Werdlow knows several companies put in bids for Heilmann. Knew value to be somewhere around $10 million (actual amount was $7 million). Looking at the reviews for the final 5 candidates for the project. Wrdlow says that on the 19th of June when he voted he did not have the ranking information he is seeing now. Did not know that JOA/Xcel was ranked second to the bottom. Another document which states that on May 13th 2003, the DBA received 12 responses to is Request for Proposals and an Evaluation comitteee found 5 of the 12 proposals to be most responsive to the overall scope of the project. The final proposal of the Evaluation Committee was JOA/Xcel/SDG for the Heilmann project.
"This would be a huge discrepancy," says Werdlow about what the document says and the actual evaluation committee reviews.
June 19th 2003 letter from Ayanna Benson, director of the DBA to the Board of Commissioners. there is a Handwritten note saying "to send fee listings to Sean Werdlow."
11:45AM Looking at construction services agreement between contractors and the city- agreement dated June 19th 2003. An article IX on conflict of interest: contractor will not have any proprietry interests that will conflict with services of this agreement. No public official who exercises responsibilities has any financial or personal interest in this agreement. Werdlow says this is to identify that the contract has been raised to a higher level of scrutiny. Werdlow says it would be important to abide by these principles.
Doeh asking if Werdlow knew that prior to the awarding of the project on June 19th 2003 that there were text messages between Vincent Anwunah and Ferguson. Before witness can answer defense asks for a sidebar.
Werdlow says it was important for city employees to abide by the previous directives laid out. Reiterates what he has already said.
Doeh asks if he would have changed his vote known about the texts. Before witness answers, both Thomas and Evelyn object. Judge sustains so no answer to the question.
11:52AM Thomas gets up to cross-examine the witness.
Seaford Branford and Shank, current employer of the witness, used to do business with the city of Detroit.
Thomas showing witnesses a pamphlet that shows the different branches of the Kilpatrick team. The chief development officer was Walter Watkins, witness worked with him previous to their roles in the Kilpatrick administration. Thomas saying this guy had extensive experience in banking and well qualified to run his department. Very qualified agrees the witness. Talking about Chief of Staff Christine Beatty and how she ran mayoral campaigns for Kilpatrick in 2001 and 2005. Thomas asks if she was a hardworking lady. Thomas says he is trying to demonstrate that Kilpatrick's directors of departments were extremely competent. Judge says there is no issue as to their competency so move it along.
Witness asks if you want me to say if those people are competent?
Witness agrees that sometimes people disagreed with mayor at the Monday meetings about how to do things. Thomas says these were very tough meetings.
12:00PM Witness agrees that Derrick Miller didn't always follows mayor's recommendations. Witness says "Mayor didn't always take my side. Mayor didn't always take Derrick's side."
Witness says that the mayor respected his skill set and allowed him to run the finance department. Also says he can't speak for anyone else.
Witness agrees that running a city is a multi-functional job. That's correct says Werdlow.
Thomas asks are there things that the mayor might want to know but does not. Werdlow agrees that is possible.
Doeh objects, Judge overrules but we are speaking in too broad generalities.
Thomas says that the mayor is not responsible to know all the intricacies of every department. Werdlow agrees with that statement.
So, Thomas says, there were things going on in the city he did not know about. Yes says the witness.
Thomas asks if witness remembers contracting processes with law firms. Yes says the witness. Relevance apparently has to do with competency to know that the departments could do their jobs.
Kwame is agreeing fervently with witness's testimony with several affirmative head shakes.
Werdlow says he was not aware of the minority initiative instituted by Kilpatrick. Says that was in place beforehand. Thomas says yes there were other mayors and Kilpatrick that gave preference to minority businesses.
Talking about Lewis White and Clay. Judge intercedes and says they are a very fine law firm and has nothing to do with this case.
Thomas talking about minority law firms and when competing for contracts in the city. Werdlow says that question is better suited to someone in the law department.
Looking at the revised finance directive on competition for city contracts.
Werdlow says the DBA was much more focused in terms of contracting than other city departments.
Thomas talking about the directive and open and competitive process.
Werdlow says there is one common thing with all contracts- "It's always expertise and price." Wow hard to argue with that.
12:15PM Thomas says directives are not statute or ordinance. No it is not says the witness. Werdlow says that this was simply guidelines as to how the city should be operating.
"No one is going to jail for violating that as far as you were concerned," says Thomas.
No one was going to jail says Werdlow but you could fire someone on the basis of the directives.
Thomas is done.
12:18PM Evelyn cross-examines.
Meeting minutes from DBA board member of June 19th 2003. LaJuan Wilks, Tyrone Clifton, Ayanna Benson and Robert Hill were all present at this meeting.
Werdlow says he can't recall if he saw the actual RFP for the Heilmann project.
Now Evelyn puts up the RFP. Lists Rodney Stokes as the head of the Recreational Department. Vincent Anwunah listed but Lee Stepheson is not.
Evelyn reads about DBA reserving the right to reject any proposals and that the DBA does not intend to award contracts solely based on responses to the RFP.
Evelyn says there is nothing illegal about awarding contracts on basses other than just proposals. Witness agrees.
Evelyn is done and Doeh has no further re-direct.
12:23PM Doeh says they will start with a new witness tomorrow. Judge dismisses jury and says we'll be back tomorrow at 9AM.
About the author
Alexandra Harland is a Princeton undergrad and has a masters degree in International affairs with Columbia. A Montreal native, she worked with the Daily Telegraph newspaper for a few years before transitioning to TV, when she worked at ABC News with Peter Jennings. Alexandra has also worked in newsrooms in both Detroit and Boston.