DETROIT - A government witness testified Wednesday that multi-million dollar city contracts got held up and F-bombs were dropped when things didn't go defendant Bobby Ferguson's way.
Bernard Parker III, currently President of BP3 & Associates and a former employee of Ferguson's, testified this morning to multiple incidents involving the contractor when the witness worked both in the private sector and with city government in Detroit.
Parker described working with Detroit contractor Insituform in 2005. The witness was tasked with looking into why a $10 million amendment to one of their Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) contracts, 1368, was not being being approved by the city.
Parker approached former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to ask about the hold up to the amendment. According to the witness, Kilpatrick told him that his employer needed to talk to Ferguson about it.
An October 1st 2005 email with Inland Waters- also involved on the 1368 contract- indicated that Parker had talked to Kilpatrick over the weekend and that "amendment is held up until FEI (Ferguson Enterprises) is satisfied."
Ferguson met with Insituform executives and let them know that he wanted an increase in the percentage he was getting for labor and material on 1368.
And if Ferguson didn't get the money, "he said the amendment would not move," said Parker. After the Ferguson left the meeting, Parker testified that one of the executives turned to him and said "That's extortion! That's blackmail!"
At another meeting with Inland Water and Insituform officials, Ferguson again made his financial demands. The witness said that the executives didn't cave and Ferguson left the meeting angry. Parker testified that Ferguson confronted him in the parking lot and was mad at him for going against "the boss", former mayor Kilpatrick. Ferguson also let Parker know he felt he was siding with "white folks."
Read more: Kilpatrick witness makes extortion claims
Later testimony turned to a $73 million DWSD contract in southwest Detroit in 2003. Parker was working with Walbridge Aldinger when they submitted a bid on contract 748, the Baby Creek Combined Overflow Facility. Despite submitting the lowest bid, Waldinger was not the lead contender for the project.
Parker approached mayoral aide Derrick Miller to ask why they were not being considered. The witness said that Miller asked if Ferguson was on their deal. Parker replied that no he wasn't as he was not qualified for the job.
Miller's reply, 'Well see if you can put him on the deal BP."
Walbridge ultimately decided to include Ferguson on the Baby Creek project because it was felt this was the only way they would get the contract. They agreed that Ferguson would get $10 million for the Patton Park part of the project and $2.73 million for site work if Walbridge secured the deal.
It was anything but a smooth relationship. After a dispute with Ferguson over performance issues, Brian Cruickshank, a VP with Waldinger, wrote a letter in October 2003 that stated "Walbridge Aldinger was strongly recommended by highly placed city officials to award a substantial portion of the excavation work to Ferguson Enterprises." According to Parker, Ferguson became incensed by the potentially incriminating letter that could have caused major problems if it had fallen in the wrong hands.
Parker testified that Ferguson called him as he was leaving church and started yelling.
"You motherfuckers are crazy! What is wrong with Cruickshank? Why the fuck did he write that letter?!?!"
US Attorney Mark Chutkow asked the witness why Ferguson was so upset by the statement about highly placed city officials telling Walbridge to work with him.
"Because it's illegal," said Parker.
Walbridge executives were concerned that by making Ferguson angry they risked not getting any more city contracts.
"Bobby had influence. He was the mayor's friend," explained Parker.
The witness testified that he worked for Ferguson's Xcel Construction between 2007 and 2009. While Parker was there, Xcel partnered with Lakeshore Engineering on DWSD contract 2014. At some point, Ferguson told the witness that he felt Lakeshore owed him $80,000 on the project. He then told Parker to pay Lakeshore executive Tom Hardiman a visit to collect the money.
"He told me to put my foot in his (Hardiman's) ass. He (Hardiman) wasn't going to get shit else from the city or DWSD," testified the witness.
Despite being uncomfortable with the questionable legality of the situation, Parker did as he was told. Hardiman and Lakeshore head Avinash Rachmale agreed to write Ferguson a check for $12,000.
Ferguson was anything but happy.
"You scary motherfucker. He owes me $80,000. You came back with $12,000," said Ferguson according to the witness.
Ferguson also took issue with one of the other minority sub-contractors on 2014. Ferguson became upset that Eric Simmons E & T Trucking seemed to be getting more work than he was from Lakeshore on the contract. Justifiably paranoid that his office might be bugged by federal agents, Ferguson met with Parker in the yard by his offices and asked him to work his "snitches" at the city's Human Rights Department to pull Simmons's certifications as a minority-owned and Detroit-based business. The witness balked at doing something that would so negatively impact the sub-contractor's business without any legitimate basis for doing so.
"You scary motherfucker. I'm the boss. You do what I tell you to," exploded Ferguson.
Jim Thomas, Kilpatrick's defense lawyer, began the difficult task of chipping away at the witness's damaging testimony. On the issue of the lengthy delay to amendment #4 on contract 1368, Thomas pointed out that there were many hoops to jump before contracts were approved and that Kilpatrick was in the midst of re-election issues in 2005.
The defense lawyer also addressed the rumors about the amendment just sitting on the mayor's desk.
"You recognize that sometimes rumors are not true?" asked Thomas. Parker affirmed that he did.
Court resumes 9 a.m. Thursday.
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