Texts raise questions about power in Detroit's water department

Texts raise questions about power in Detroit's water department

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DETROIT -- Judging by Bobby Ferguson's text messages, he was more than one of Kwame Kilpatrick's best friends.  When it came to handing out contracts at the water department, he was the power behind the throne.

In one text message, it sounds like Ferguson is the boss.

Ferguson: I need Zeke to call Victor and tell him he wants to review recommendations for the downtown contractors prior to the final decision being made.

Kilpatrick: Cool.

Ferguson: You tell him sir, real soon.  They are trying to move fast.  Thank you.  Not rushing the boss.  Just don't want this to get by us.

Federal agent Carol Paszkiewicz read several texts that prosecutors say show Ferguson, Kilpatrick and top aide Derrick Miller, known as Zeke, jousting with Mercado and scheming to get Ferguson more work.

Pratap Rajadhyaksha testified Wednesday that he didn't like working with Ferguson, who he said often demanded more money, finished late and had some powerful friends.

He said that after one dispute, Ferguson told him, "You don't have to worry about the director.  You need to worry about me."

While he didn't like it, Rajadhyaksha says he learned to live with it because even Mercardo worried about keeping Bobby happy.

However, Ferguson attorney Mike Rataj got Rajadhyaksha to acknowledge that no one ever ordered him to hire Ferguson, and he tried to undermine his credibility by pointing out that the man who fired him from his engineering firm was his own brother.

Outside the courthouse, Rataj said he would raise more questions about the prosecution's witnesses on Thursday.

"You'll hear from me tomorrow when I cross examine Agent Paszkiewicz.  Can't wait," he said.

While Victor Mercado is on trial, too, the text messages we heard made him seem more like a victim than a co-conspirator.  Still, prosecutors have said he allowed Kilpatrick and Ferguson to rig contracts so he could keep making big bucks as the water department boss.

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