Kilpatrick Trial: More accusations of pay-to-play


DETROITLocal 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.

8:59AM Friday morning at the federal courthouse and court proceedings in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial should be getting underway soon. First up this morning, EPA agent Carol Paszkiewicz on the stand as Mike Rataj, defense lawyer for Bobby Ferguson takes another stab at cross-examination with her. Once that's done, we are on to the Heilmann Recreation Center chapter of the trial. 

9:05AM Everyone is in the courtroom and the jury enters. 

Mike Rataj takes up cross of Paszkiewizc. Tells the courtroom he has a "very discreet" area to cover and it won't take long. Asks the witness how she's doing. "We'll see," responds the witness alluding to the fact she doesn't know what he has in store for her.

Looking at change order #3 for contract 812c, the alleged pass through contract to Ferguson's company DTF. Mentions changes to security changes to pump stations. D'Agostini & Sons held the contract in name. Rataj already getting feisty with the federal agent. 

Rataj saying yesterday the witness testified that the full amount of the contract $3.9 million went to Ferguson. Witness says she didn't change her testimony when she said it was $3.1 million that Ferguson. 

Looking at a document from D'Agostini to the DWSD invoicing for $3.1 million. Dated January 10 2006. Rataj says nowhere on that document does it say Ferguson Enterprises. No says the witness. 

9:13AM New witness taking stand in the Heilmann chapter. US Attorney Jennifer Blackwell for the government. Johnson Akinwusi is the witness. JOA Construction Company has been his for 20 years. Does commercial construction. they have contracts for the city of Detroit and the federal government. Has built training centers, a levy and dam for the US corps of Engineers as well as several other small projects. In the city of Detroit, did the exterior of the federal building, the secret service office and the FBI's office. 

JOA had contracts with Detroit under the Archer administration with the Detroit Building Authority. Worked on the 36th District court and fire stations. Regularly received requests from the Detroit Building Authority and they were on a list of contractors for them. Made campaign contribution to Gil Hill, about $2500, when Hill ran against Kwame in 2001. 

Missed a meeting of contractors with the mayor in 2002. Akinwusi says he didn't know about the meeting and never made it. 

The witness talked to Larry Albiosu of Fashion International, a friend of the mayor and of the witness's. Told him that he was not getting work in the city and could he help him. Albiosu told him to write a letter to the mayor about what he had done for the city and what he could do. Also told the witness that there were clothes in layaway that he could pay for, including suits for the former mayor. The witness wrote a letter asking to continue doing work with the city of Detroit. Witness also paid for the suits. 

Looking at receipt for suit that witness bought at Fashion International and check that he wrote for his suit and layaway. Witness purchased suits for himself on March 11th 2002 worth $3,142. Wrote at check amount on March 11th 2002 for $7,933.38. Difference of $4,800 went toward layaway clothes for mayor Kilpatrick. Witness saying he paid for mayor's suits because he wanted to work for the city of Detroit. 

Shortly after, witness got bid proposal for the Heilmann Recreation Center. Before that, witness went to ribbon cutting ceremony at the Erma Henderson Marina. That was a contract he performed under Archer. The event was during the Kilpatrick administration. Witness was approached by Christine Beatty who asked him to contribute towards the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. Witness wrote a check to the KCF on May 28th 2002 for $10,000. Witness says he was asked for that amount by Beatty. "That was the amount I was asked by Christine Beatty to provide," says witness. 

The DBA offered bid proposal to JOA for the Heilmann Recreation Center. That was put out for bid in 2003 and it was a design build contract. Heilmann Center located in east side of Detroit. Witness presented with an RFP. The did a joint venture with Xcel Construction, teamed up to design a proposal. Witness had never joint ventured with Xcel before. Ferguson, Calvin Hall and Michael Wodehouse just came to the witness. STG Design was the architect on the project. 

9:30AM Wodehouse was aware that the witness had received an RFP but did not say how he knew. The Heilmann contract was for $7 million. The witness knew Wodehouse and he felt that he had a good chance of getting contract. "I knew Bobby and Wodehouse were close to the mayor and I had a better chance with them," says the witness. 

Looking at a letter from the DBA. Witness received this letter on June 3rd 2003. Letter said that 5 teams were chosen to be interviewed for project by the evaluation committee including JOA. Each team had 30 minutes for presentation including 15 more minutes for questioning. Ayanna Benson was the head of the committee.

The witness, Sam Allen and David Cypher, witness's operational manager, did the presentation. Wodehouse and Calvin Hall participated for Xcel. Witness says the presentation was calm; there was no anxiety in the interview. 

A letter came to the witness's office letting him know they had been selected for the project. Met with Xcel and they decided on the contract and the payment percentages between them. Xcel wanted 36%. Witness says each partner on a venture usually provides employees. Witness says that Xcel did not provide staff, employees on the job. JOA provided the employees- superintendent, project manager- all employees came from JOA. Witness says that in his experience on a joint venture both parties provide employees. JOA also was the sole provider of bonds thus 100% responsible for the job. Ferguson Enterprises provided demolition on the contract. Witness said that initially that wasn't a problem but after felt that given Xcel was a partner felt it was a conflict of interest. 

"I didn't want to create any issues that would slow job down," says witness about confronting Ferguson about the conflict of interest. Didn't want to slow down payment to JOA. 

Witness was concerned about getting paid by the city. Witness's controller called the city finance department. Witness says that Ferguson had the ability to talk to people processing the payment. Shortly after approaching Ferguson about payment, JOA received it. Looking at payment schedule that went to Xcel and Ferguson. JOA checks that went to Xcel. Total paid to Xcel on Heilmann contract is $161,185. Witness says Xcel basically only came to progress meetings on the job and that's all they did. Date range for checks is October 2003 to June of 2006. Witness says Wodehouse would get to progress meetings.

Blackwell asks witness if he felt Xcel deserved the money. Gerald Evelyn objects. "No I don't think so," says witness. Why did you pay them then says Blackwell.

 "We had a contract. I didn't want to get sued so I paid the contract," says the witness. Witness says he abided by the contract. "I didn't want to create waves on the job. If I didn't pay Bobby, the job wouldn't go." Says he means by that payment would be slow coming and his bonds would get pulled.

Witness also made 3 other payments: including one to glass company and 2 to Ferguson Enterprises for demolition of existing building. Blackwell asks if the $161.00 he paid Xcel took away from his profits. Yes says witness. Witness says he got no other projects after the job. Witness supported Kwame in the re-election. Ferguson gave him packet of envelopes that he passed onto sub-contractors for contributions. For the re-election campaign. Total amount that he passed onto to Dave Cypher who gave it to Bobby was more than $32,000. Says he did it to get more work.

9:50AM Witness says he was previously interviewed by the FBI and at first did not mention that he had bought suits for the mayor.

Jim Thomas, Kwame's lawyer, objects and asks for sidebar.

Witness says he didn't tell them because he was scared when they showed up in his office. Witness shutdown JOA in 2007 because he had a stroke. Witness spoke to Wodehouse after he was discharged from hospital about getting more work. Witness also called Ferguson about it. Ferguson said he didn't want to talk to him until he resolved his issues with Wodehouse. Ferguson hung up with him and that was last time they spoke.

9:55AM Evelyn for Ferguson cross-examines witness. Evelyn asks about memory problems due to stroke. Witness says he has none.

Looking at JOA's payment schedule chart. Witness says he told FBI at first that he didn't have all the invoices on the Heilmann project. Witness says these numbers came from his computer.

Witness says he spoke to FBI agents on several occasions. The first time he spoke to them was September 2012. Project took place in 2003 says Evelyn. Then witness spoke to them on October 5th, 24th. Phone call with FBI on October 25th. Met with FBI on November the 9th and December 4th. Met at least 6 or 7 times starting with the September 26th meeting says Evelyn. Witness doesn't recall exact number but thinks it's more than 3.

Evelyn pressing that the first time witness spoke to FBI was fall of this year.

Evelyn talking about enveloped for re-election contributions. Evelyn says witness told FBI initially that it was 2002. Witness says yes he did but then reviewed the matter and realized it was during Kilpatrick's re-election.

Evelyn approaches witness with notes from his interviews with FBI.

Witness says "He (Evelyn) showed me 4. I said 3," about the number of times he met with the FBI.

Evelyn lists 5 meetings. Evelyn going back to the fact witness said initially contributions were in 2002. Witness didn't write a check himself for the re-election campaign contributions, it was just the sub-contractors. Didn't think there was anything illegal about it.

Witness says he got a call from Tyrone Clifton at the DBA to pick up his RFP for the Heilmann project at their offices. Witness says he knows Wodehouse very well and they are friends. Met in 1986 at Bartinelo, a large contractor. Worked together on $66 million in Troy. Evelyn says Wodehouse helped to train witness. Witness says he was his assistant engineer on the Troy project. Witness refusing to concede he was trained by Wodehouse. Witness says he was at Bartinelo 10 years. Started JOA in 1992.

Wodehouse left Bartinelo as well. Wodehouse has a degree in architecture. After they both left Bartinelo, they maintained contact. Evelyn saying that witness asked Wodehouse to work for him. No says witness he had his own company. Witness says that Wodehouse provided computer programming for his company. Witness says that he stopped using Wodehouse as a consultant "many, many years ago."

Witness says he had heard of Xcel, a newer company than his company JOA. Xcel was his first joint venture experience in design/build.

Witness says he would not go onsite on projects all that often.

Evelyn says that Wodehouse approached him for joint venture because JOA had bonding capacity that Xcel did not. Evelyn says that is also why you were getting a much greater percentage of the fee because you were taking the risks. Witness agrees.

10:15AM Witness says he had never heard of architects STG before the Heilmann project.

Evelyn asks witness if he is a black male. "Of course," says the witness about the blatantly obvious. So is Wodehouse and STG is a black company. Evelyn says so Wodehouse was building a minority team. Witness says he doesn't know about that.

Witness saying "being capable is not the only reason to get a job." "You have to have a connection." he says alluding to Wodehouse and Ferguson's connection to the Kilpatrick administration.

Witness says David Cypher lead project executive for JOA on Heilmann project. Evelyn says a Bobby Toliver worked with Xcel on the project. Witness says he heard that. Evelyn says a Richard Duroy was replaced by Kevin Obary on the project.

Witness says that Xcel didn't have people in the field. JOA had only people in the field.

Evelyn saying that witness wasn't at all the progress meetings. Witness says Wodehouse prepared minutes for meetings. So Evelyn how did he prepare those minutes if he wasn't in the field. witness says it's because Wodehose listened to what went on in progress meetings.

Evelyn saying witness had problems with Richard Duroy and Wodehouse had to step in. Witness says that is not accurate.

Evelyn listing all the things that Wodehouse did for the Heilmann project: estimations, budget. JOA says his people did the budget.

10:26AM Judge calls for 20 minute break.

10:46AM The most exciting thing at the courthouse today is Jim Schaefer's "residents of Bloggerville" who have been sitting in the courtroom and observing everyone in the trial. And their observations are great. There are four of them who have watched Ferguson pick his nose during the court proceedings and told Kwame that Cheese Its are not appropriate breakfast material. Jim Thomas apparently threatened to get one of them kicked out of the courthouse for approaching the defendants. Schaefer's groupies also made it to the first floor snack shop where they flanked Local 4's own Kevin Dietz.

10:50AM Evelyn back at cross. Looking at RFP for the Heilmann project.

Distracted from Evelyn's cross by Ferguson picking his nose. I so wish I had not been made aware of that.

The RFP documents stipulate that records must be kept. also that meetings with DBA must be attended.

1.Looking at minutes from June 23rd 2003 for JOA/Xcel kickoff Design/Build meeting. Certain tasks for the meeting are recorded. Lists tasks and the responsible parties assigned to those tasks. Woodhouse assigned.2 task: take site photos and start detailed scheduling after physical needs assessment.

Clearly states on minutes if there is any disagreement with what is on the meetings must be conveyed within 2 days of receipt. SDG people there, Woodhouse there, Ferguson there but witness was not at the kickoff meeting.

2.September 25th 2003 OAM (Owner Architect and Manager) meeting- cost $5.5 million and fee is $1.1 million.

Minutes prepared by Calvin Hall and lists participants of meeting- witness again not at the meeting. Evelyn making a point how could witness know what was going on if he was not at the meetings.

3.Another OAM meeting on October 15th 2003- - lists community advocacy for $65,000. Initially hadn't known whether to renovate existing center or build a whole new one. Ultimately it was decided to build a new one. Evelyn saying that project had community participation in it. Witness agrees. Minutes lists participants and again the witness is not there.

"Of course," says Evelyn about the witness's absence.

4.Another meeting on December 9th 2003 shows progress on the project. List of attendees of all the usual suspects including community development group. No witness again.

5.Another Design/Build meeting in March 22nd 2004. Looking at tasks assignments- tasks assigned to Woodhouse and to Calvin Hall. Witness again not there.

6. Yet another meeting on May 18th 2004. We get it- Xcel did work and the witness didn't go to the meetings. More task assignments for Hall and Woodhouse. And yes, witness was not at the meeting.

7. Another set of minutes with handwritten notes. More assignments for Woodhouse and Hall. Surprise, surprise no witness in attendance. Evelyn says witness was on the distribution list.

8. Another meeting in June 2004. More tasks for Woodhouse and Hall. No witness at the meeting.

Bernard is scribbling on some paper. I wonder what he is doodling has to be more interesting than these minutes.

Evelyn brings out more minutes. Judge Edmunds interrupts and asks for sidebar. Probably asking Evelyn to speed it up. I'm hoping.

Evelyn reads out more meetings- June 2004, November 2004 and August 1st 2006. Apparently we won't be having to go through every single one.

11:30AM Looking at list of attendees on walk-through of Heilmann project. Even Christine Beatty is there but witness is not.

Evelyn asks if this was not important enough for him to participate in. Witness says he had other people working on it and he had 13 or 14 other contracts going on at the time.

Document on DBA letterhead from August 26th 2004. Says that JOA/Xcel has not provided sub-contractors contracts. Evelyn saying no one could get paid until those contracts are signed and JOA was responsible for it. Again, witness did not attend but other employees of JOA did. Witness says he was not at the meeting but was copied on everything related to the job. Witness is saying that the contracts were not done because SDG, the architects, hadn't drawn up plans.

Evelyn saying that woodhouse had to step up and participate because the project was lagging. Witness says this is not true.

More meeting minutes from April 14th 2006, lists things that needed to get done for completion date of May 16th 2006. Lists several sub-contractors with issues that need to be resolved. Evelyn saying this indicates that Woodhouse had to get more involved because JOA was not doing his job.

Judge asks Evelyn to move it along.

11:40AM More minutes with items requiring resolution. 

Evelyn says this is all being driven by Woodhouse. 

Blackwell objects. Judge overrules. 

"No that's not true," says the witness. 

Again, Evelyn driving home the point that Xcel ended up doing more work than anticipated when Woodhouse had to step in. 

Later meeting minutes shows that many items are completed or in progress. Lists about 17 sub-contractors who have been contacted. Minutes are prepared by Woodhouse. 

Witness says Woodhouse took meeting minutes. Implying that's all he did and did not drive the meetings. 

Sidebar called. 

Evelyn asks for 5 minute break. Judge agrees. 

12:00PM Evelyn promises he is almost finished. Says during break he showed witness documents to review. Evelyn says they were all prepared by Bobby Toliver of Xcel. Range from April 2006 through May 2006. 

Looking at an RFI (Request for Information) from Bobby Toliver to JOA. It's a response to a question on a trench drain. 

The witness fired David Cypher in 2004. Evelyn says the problems that required the witness to fire him impeded the progress of the project. The witness disagrees. 

Evelyn discussing witness's friendship with Woodhouse. Saying that the witness called up Woodhouse this fall. Witness says he did not call him but that Woodhouse visited him in his office. 

Evelyn asks if witness is still frightened by the FBI visit. Witness says no. Evelyn saying that witness asked to borrow $5,000 from Woodhouse. Witness says no. Evelyn tells witness under oath. Witness says he doesn't remember asking for it but he did not get $5,000. 

12:10PM Jim Thomas cross-examines for Kwame Kilpatrick. 

Thomas asking about when FBI agents approached the witness. Witness says he was alone at his office. Witness says he was alone at the meeting and was scared. 

Witness agrees that he was asked about questions about Kilpatrick's administration. 

Thomas says witness told FBI about dealings with Kilpatrick and asked if he gave anything of value to people of city government. Thomas saying that witness told them he did not give the city money. Thomas also saying it was the FBI who brought up a rumor about the witness sending an envelope with money to a clothing store. Witness agrees that he never told them about a purchase of clothing for Kilpatrick at that interview. Also told them he didn't give any money. 

"Are you having problems remembering things?," asks Thomas. Evelyn prodded witness's memory as well. Defense seems to think all witnesses must suffer from dementia. 

Thomas asking about a Christmas party that witness threw in 2001. Kilpatrick was not invited but he went with Larry Alebiosu. Witness had contracts with city of Detroit under Archer at that time: Erma Henderson Marina amongst them. Thomas says witness wasn't taken off of any projects after Kilpatrick took office. No says witness. 

Talking about the Erma Henderson Marina ribbon cutting ceremony. Both witness and Kilpatrick were there. 

Thomas asks if witness took part in any of the other 7 park projects aside from Heilmann during Kilpatrick's administration. Witness says yes on several small ones. 

Witness says he was at a police ceremony ribbon cutting ceremony possibly in 2003. Both witness and Kilpatrick there. 

Thomas saying that witness helped in Manoogian Mansion renovation in 2002 and 2003. Witness agrees. 

Witness says he got a message in 2002 from his secretary saying Kilpatrick's secretary called to request he go meet with the mayor. Witness did not go. 

Witness says he did meet with mayor in Ferguson's office in 2002. 

Looking at mayor's agenda for July 29th 2003 lists a 4pm meeting in Bernard White's office with Ferguson, JOA. 

Thomas saying that with all this contact he did not need Larry Alebiosu to facilitate meeting mayor. Witness says that is not correct. 

Thomas talking about JOA's $10,000 contribution to KCF. Thomas saying that was done freely and voluntarily. Witness agrees. 

Thomas saying that witness had ability to communicate easily with mayor. Witness disagrees. 

Witness agrees there was nothing corrupt in giving KCF money. 

Going back to witness meetings with the FBI where they asked questions about the payment of Kilpatrick's suits. In an October 5th meeting this year at the FBI offices, the witness discussed the $32,000 he got from sub-contractors for Kilpatrick's re-election campaign. Witness agrees he has no reason to believe that the money didn't go to the campaign. 

12:35PM Ferguson leaning over at the defendants' table as he whispers to Kwame. 

Looking at bills from Fashion International. Witness says these were the bills shown to him by the FBI. Witness says he goes to Fashion International to buy his clothing. First invoice from March 11th 2002 for $3,142, second for $3,817 and third $2,141. Witness acknowledges that he spends thousands of dollars on suits. Some of the bills indicate layaway. 

Thomas says no one asked you to pay for the mayor's suits. Witness says Larry advised him. Thomas says but mayor never called to thank him for the suits. Witness agrees. Thomas says that at one point he told the federal agents that since he never heard a thank you from the mayor, he thought maybe Larry had pocketed the money. Witness agrees that he did. 

Witness says he told the FBI multiple times he did not pay for the mayor's suits but ultimately told the suits. 

Thomas stressing that the federal agents told the witness what they were looking to with regards to the mayor's suits. 

Thomas saying that witness told FBI that he found out from Larry the tailor that the Kilpatrick administration was not happy with him. Thomas also saying that we don't have the letter that the witness allegedly sent Kilpatrick at the tailor's suggestion. 

Thomas takes a document to the witness and trips. 

"No more tripping please," says the judge. 

Looking at bill from Fashion International for the witness's suits on March 11th 2002. Says transaction "lay" meaning layaway. 

"Are you capable of making mistakes as relates to times and places," asks Thomas. 

Witness says that everyone makes mistakes.

Thomas is done. US Attorney Jennifer Blackwell says she has redirect but it is more than 10 minutes so maybe she should continue Monday morning. Judge agrees and adjourns court for the week.

 We'll be back Monday 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.