Last on cross-examination was Ferguson's defense lawyer Mike Rataj.
Under Rataj's cross, it was revealed that one of the contracts awarded to Ferguson, WS 651 under umbrella contract CM 2012, was initially determined to have saved DWSD money. Rataj also pointed out that the contracts weren't done by a low bid contract process and so there was no requirement to take the lowest bidders. In testimony yesterday, the court heard how a recommendation was made to award the contracts in question to the the three lowest bidders- Fergsuon Enterprises ranked 8th in a list of 10 bidders.
And finally, Rataj demonstrated that numerous change orders on contract pricing was not unusual. He introduced evidence showing that contractors Lanzo Construction and L D'Agostini, who had ranked in the top three of lowest bidders, issued 12 and 8 change orders respectively to increase their original contract prices by several million dollars.
The government introduced a series of incriminating text messages that strongly suggest a behind-the-scenes conspiracy to ensure that Detroit water contracts were steered contractor Bobby Ferguson's way.
EPA agent Carol Paszkiewicz was one of only two witnesses to take the stand. Agent Paszkiewicz is a federal witness who will testify in different chapters of the Kilpatrick trial. She is one of principal agents investigating allegations of extortion during the Kilpatrick administration in conjunction with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) contracts.
Under questioning by US Attorney Mark Chutkow, the EPA agent talked about a flurry of text messages sent between August 2003 and April 2004 regarding downtown water main contracts awarded under the umbrella contract CM 2012. DWSD awarded company DLZ the construction management contract over other sub-contractors for the project.
In the period the text messages in question were sent, an initial recommendation had been made by DLZ to DWSD to award the CM 2012 umbrella contracts to the three lowest bidders and reject all other contractors. The three lowest bidding contractors were Posen Construction, L D'Agostini & Sons and Lanzo Construction.
And this caused a whole lot of behind the scenes scrambling.
On February 18th 2004, Ferguson texted Kwame Kilpatrick: "Hate to bother you but you need to hear this. Pratap people stopped talking to my people and trying to give the job to one of the other contractors." "Pratap" refers to Pratap Rajadhyaksha, COO at the time of project managers DLZ. Kwame replies: "What?" To which Bobby responds: "Just what you said before we are not part of the decision making, we get fu#$ed no matter how the process started. You still in the office?"
On March 16th 2004, a day after DLZ sent DWSD its recommendation to grant the three lowest bidders the contracts, former water boss sent Kilpatrick a message saying "Mr Mayor I need to speak with you it is urgent." Later that very same day, the former mayor texted Ferguson telling him to come to his office to talk about "downtown projects."
Two days later, on March 18th 2004, Mercado approved the recommendation to take the lowest bidders.
That did not sit well with Ferguson and Kilpatrick. That very day, March 18th 2004, Ferguson texted Kilpatrick:"Your welcome boss. Just left Victor. Date has been changed to my benefit but we still have a problem on the big one. He thinks he is slick man with this white folks." Agent Paszkiewicz explained that the "big one" referred to contract CM 2012, "boss" was a nickname for Kilpatrick and the "slick man" designated was Mercado.
To which Kilparick replied: "His slick sh%$ is running out. I got his ass on something. I ain't happy."
Five days later, on March 23rd 2004, Ferguson texted Kilpatrick: "Victor just outsmarted us. He made me come to his office. Thought it was about job we have but it was about 3 lowest bidders. White folks."
And finally, in a three-way exchange between Ferguson, Kipatrick and aide Derrick Miller on March 30th 2004, Ferguson texted "Victor is ful of sh$%. He told me the ordinance didn't let him throw Posen out. That is a damn lie. We will talk tonight." Posen Construction was the lowest bidder on the CM 2012 contracts.
Ultimately Ferguson got his way and Ferguson Enterprises was awarded contracts WS 650 and WS 651 under CM 2012. The two contracts garnered Ferguson a total of $6.9 million
Earlier on the day, former DLZ Chief Operating Officer Pratap Rajadhyaksha testified that Mercado indicated to the witness early on that he wanted Ferguson to get some of the work on CM 2012. He also testified that Mercado did not make this recommendation for any other contractors.
Rajadhyaksha told the court that Ferguson's company requested an unusally high amount of change orders and was the most difficult of all the contractors to work with on the downtown project, requiring a full 50% of DLZ's time to manage them. After DLZ reported their problems with Ferguson Enterprises to Mercado, the witness received a call from a furious Ferguson. When Rajadhyaksha told him he had a responsibility to keep Mercado informed, Ferguson yelled "Don't worry about the director. You need to worry about me."
The witness said he ended the conversation by hanging up on Ferguson and they never spoke again.
Defense lawyers did their best to diffuse potentially incriminating texts introduced by the government on Wednesday by saying they were simply being misinterpreted.
Mike Rataj, a lawyer for Bobby Ferguson's defense team, came out swinging at the government witness, EPA agent Carol Paszkiewicz.
Rataj started off by asking Paszkiewicz if she understood the concept of witness sequestration whereby witnesses who will be testifying in a trial are precluded from listening to the testimony of other witnesses.
Paszkiewiczis one of a handful of federal agents who are testifying in the Kilpatrick trial and have been able to listen to other witnesses due to an exemption to sequestration. Rataj's obvious implication for the jury was that the EPA agent was tailoring her direct testimony to fall in line with previous witnesses.