The government in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial contended Thursday that former Detroit mayor Kilpatrick did not text other contractors about specific water contracts the way he did with his friend Bobby Ferguson.
Earlier in the morning, lawyers for the former mayor, Ferguson and Kilpatrick cross-examined government witness Carol Paszkiewicz. The EPA agent, who has taken the stand at various points throughout the trial, testified yesterday to Kilpatrick and Ferguson texting about Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) contract 1368. Ferguson was sub-contracted to Inland Waters Pollution Control on the project which went on to include repair work of a sinkhole collapse at 15 Mile Rd. in Sterling Heights.
Mike Rataj, lawyer for Ferguson, began his cross-examination by attempting to discredit earlier witness Kathleen McCann, a former executive at Soave Enterprises, who had testified to being in an "arranged marriage" with Ferguson on 1368 at the behest of Kilpatrick who had allegedly held up the water contract until Inland Waters hired his friend.
Rataj got Paszkiewicz to concede that given that McCann and her boss Tony Soave were at the top of the chain of command, they would be the ones to have the least knowledge of day-to-day contracts.
In reference to the sinkhole project in Sterling Heights which generated $3.1 million in revenue for Ferguson Enterprises Inc. (FEI), Rataj introduced documents showing that Ferguson sub-contracted work to other contractors. There was a contract agreement with company Six-S for $482,585 and invoices from 4 other sub-contractors totaling more than $110,000. Rataj's point was that FEI did not pocket the full $3.1 million but had to pay out a substantial amount to its sub-contractors.
Rataj also pointed out that many contractors had connections within the DWSD and that it was not unusual for them to leverage those relationships in order to get the inside scoop on upcoming water contracts. He singled out contractors D'Agostini, DLZ, Inland Waters and Lakeshore as companies that had approached former DWSD director Victor Mercado directly about water contracts. Paszkiewizc conceded this was true.
At one point, Rataj tried to say that the witness impeached herself by failing to mention yesterday that contract 812c, one of 5 contracts Kilpatrick asked Judge John Feikens to approve after his special administratorship to award water contracts was terminated, was a security contract. After reviewing the transcript, Judge Nancy Edmunds determined that the witness did not impeach herself.
The witness had testified yesterday that 4 out of the 5 contracts Kilpatrick sought Feikens's approval on were for Ferguson including 812c which she said used D'Agostini & Sons as a pass-through for one of Ferguson's companies.
US Attorney Mark Chutkow took less than 15 minutes to dismantle Rataj's cross.
Under re-direct, Paszkiewizc testified that 3 of the 5 contracts approved by Judge Feikens were for Ferguson Enterprises and that D'Agostini had funneled work on contract 812c to DFT, a joint venture that included Ferguson. The total in revenue for Ferguson for those approved contracts was more than $11 million.
Chutkow then listed where the sub-contractors Ferguson took on for the sinkhole project were based: Northville, Brighton, Harrison, Waterford and Sterling Heights. Not one of them was Detroit-based. And not one of them was minority-owned either.
The prosecutor concluded by bringing back text exchanges between Kilpatrick and Ferguson about water contracts. In one from March 2003, Ferguson texted "Hello Black you haven't released that contract right." To which Kilpatrick replied "Right they know I'm holding it." Chutkow then produced a text exchange between the two in which contract amounts were discussed and another where Ferguson discussed how he should move in on the sinkhole project.
Chutkow asked the witness if in her investigation she had found any texts like this where the former mayor discussed water contract specifics with other contractors. Paszkiewicz replied she had not.
Kilpatrick's lawyer Jim Thomas quickly jumped in and had the witness agree that she did not believe text messaging was the only way the former mayor communicated during his administration.
Court resumes Friday 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.