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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Detroit: Trial on Bid-Rigging Under King Kwame Continues; But Why was Bobby Ferguson So Powerful?

 
Former Detroit Deputy Mayor Kandia Milton (Detroit News file)
 
By Nicholas Stix

I understand that every corrupt politician is going to have cronies whom he favors with more graft over others, but the difference between Bobby Ferguson and everyone else is staggering. Kwame Kilpatrick gave some cronies thousands of dollars for a scheme, while giving Ferguson millions. Either Ferguson had something on Kilpatrick or, what is more likely, Ferguson was kicking back millions to Kilpatrick.

 

Bobby Ferguson, 2011: The bucks stop here?
 
Kwame Kilpatrick: The once and future king?

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Paying Ferguson a top priority for Kilpatrick, former mayoral aide testifies
By Robert Snell
May 17, 2012 at 8:42 p.m.
The Detroit News
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Detroit - The city's former deputy mayor testified Thursday that there were two priorities as Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's kingdom crumbled amid the text-message scandal in August 2008: prepare for a new mayor and pay Bobby Ferguson.

The news emerged during the third day of testimony in Ferguson's $12 million bid-rigging trial.

Former Deputy Mayor Kandia Milton testified as a government witness about the priority Kilpatrick's administration placed on paying the contractor for work on a public housing contract before Kilpatrick resigned. The day before Kilpatrick quit on Sept. 18, 2008, the mayor and Milton signed a check to a Ferguson-related company for more than $1.3 million.

[“Ferguson-related”? Does that mean it was a shell company, fronting for Ferguson?]

Milton's testimony, brokered through a government plea deal, injected drama into a trial focused on federal housing contracts and offered insight into behind the scenes meetings during the dying days of Kilpatrick's rule as mayor. The testimony came as prosecutors tried to show the unparalleled level of access Ferguson had to Kilpatrick and top levels of city government.

"Was it unusual for a vendor to appear in the mayor's office?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Judge asked Milton.

"Yes," Milton said.

"How many other contractors or vendors had that level of access to the 11th floor?" of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Judge asked.

"I don't know of any other," Milton answered.

"Just Mr. Ferguson?" Judge asked.

"Correct," Milton said.

Ferguson could walk into Kilpatrick's office unannounced and without a meeting, Milton said.

He also said Ferguson attended a private meeting with less than a handful of Kilpatrick insiders at the Manoogian Mansion in late summer 2008 when the mayor disclosed he would announce his resignation the next day.

Milton, 40, who served as mayor for one day after Kilpatrick was jailed when his bond was revoked, cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for a more lenient prison sentence after pleading guilty to bribery in connection with the sale of the city's 160-acre Camp Brighton. He pocketed $19,000 to help facilitate the approval of the 2007 sale by the Detroit City Council.

Milton apologized to the city and was sentenced on Aug. 16, 2010, to 14 months in prison, a $75,000 fine and two years of supervised probation. [And what are the odds that the State of Michigan will ever make him pay the fine?]

He had faced up to 46 months in prison but agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Milton was released from federal prison in November 2011.

In the bid-rigging case, Ferguson is accused of falsifying bids, laundering money and dumping debris on the grounds of a new public housing project called Garden View Estates on the city's west side.

Ferguson was indicted in September 2010 on eight federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to launder money. If convicted of the most serious charges, he could spend up to 20 years in prison.

He also is facing gun charges.

Milton withstood withering questions Thursday from the defense about his conviction, credibility and oaths he broke.

The most intense questions came from defense lawyer David Steingold, who represents Ferguson's company Ferguson Enterprises Inc.

He asked Milton about the oath he took when sworn in as mayor.

"That oath didn't mean that much then did it?" Steingold asked.

"It meant a lot," Milton said.

"But you were willing to violate it solely for money?" the lawyer asked.

"No," Milton said, shaking his head slowly and grimacing.

"You were doing it to hurt the city weren't you?" Steingold asked.

"That was not my intent," Milton said.

"But that was the effect?" the lawyer said.

"Yes," Milton answered.

"You lied, cheated and tried to cover up the scheme?" Steingold asked.

"Yes," Milton said.

Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn asked Milton about efforts to pay Ferguson for work on the Garden View project.

"Is there something wrong about asking to be paid for work done?" Evelyn asked.
"No," Milton answered.

Milton spent 61 minutes on the stand and hardly looked at Ferguson for more than a quick second or two.

When it was over, Milton walked into the hallway outside U.S. District Judge David Lawson's courtroom. He blew out a deep breath.

Testimony in the bid-rigging trial continues Friday.

rsnell@detnews.com
(313) 222-2028


[Thanks to reader-researcher RC for this article.]

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