Testimony on bids for water department deals at Kilpatrick trial

Kilpatrick trial testimony focuses on bids for water department deals

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A key witness testified Tuesday that former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick intervened in water deals to get his pal a bigger cut of the action.  That witness was the deputy director of the city's water and sewage department.

Superior Engineering submitted the lowest bid on two water department projects worth tens of millions of dollars, but they still didn't get the deals and that may have left you and me on the hook for an extra $3.7 million.

In his 24 years at Detroit's water department, Darryl Latimer said he had never seen a deal go down like the water main contracts awarded in 2006.

Of the seven companies competing for the work, Superior Engineering had the top score, but Latimer said that didn't suit water boss Victor Mercado, who wanted the bids re-evaluated.

So Latimer tried again and this time a team including Kilpatrick pal Bobby Ferguson finished in second place.

What followed next was an unprecedented trip to the mayor's office, where Latimer, Mercado and Kilpatrick discussed whether Superior's partner, DLZ, qualified as a Detroit-based business.

Within days, DLZ's certification was in limbo, putting the Superior team behind two competitors -- a team including Ferguson and another team that later hired Ferguson.

The certification shenanigans may have cost taxpayers millions.

On Contract 2015, the Detroit Project Management Team, including Ferguson, bid $16.5 million or $2.1 million more than the Superior team with DLZ.

On Contract 2014, Lakeshore Engineering, which would later hire Ferguson, bid $13.6 million or $1.6 million more than the Superior-DLZ team.

Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas said it may cost more to hire Detroit-based companies, but in the end it's worth it.

"You want people to work in the City of Detroit.  You want them headquartered here.  You want minority people, who (are) basically what 70 percent, 65 percent of the City of Detroit, you want them to be employed, pay taxes, buy homes, spend their money here in the city."

Thomas also argued that the local firms may have saved the city money because they know the landscape, but that argument overlooks the fact that in the end DLZ's certification as a Detroit business was confirmed.

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