Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick with Bobby Ferguson in January 2002. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
DETROIT -- The latest twist in the on-going text message scandal now gives an inside look at how Bobby Ferguson, a longtime friend of the Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and owner of a heavy construction company, dealt with city hall in getting contracts.
Text messages reported in Sunday's edition of the Detroit Free Press show former chief of staff Christine Beatty and Ferguson exchanging information about contracts and how to get paid for completed work, often a challenge for city contractors.
Beatty and Ferguson also discuss a job to fix her driveway. And the mayor, in a message to Beatty, discussed Ferguson's maneuvering for city business.
The messages were received and sent from the city-leased pager given to Beatty, who resigned in February.
In a written statement, Ferguson said his firm has done nothing wrong.
"Ferguson Enterprises has obtained its work from the City and City related agencies through public bids in which it was the lowest and most qualified bidder," said Ferguson "Any suggestions to the contrary can only be viewed as a calculated and malicious attempt at harming the business reputation of a legitimate and qualified City of Detroit minority certified contractor."
Ferguson also said the amount of work his firm, which was crucial to the construction of Comerica Park, has done with the city has actually decreased by 12 percent since the mayor took office.
Calls to the mayor's spokeswoman, Denise Tolliver, and Beatty, were not immediately returned on Saturday night.
The Free Press has not revealed how it obtained the text messages; The Detroit News and the Free Press are engaged in an ongoing lawsuit with the city of Detroit in order to not only obtain the messages, but also to get other documents related to the $8.4 million settlement of the whistleblowers suit filed by three ex-cops.
The text messages contradict sworn testimony by Beatty and Kilpatrick during the whistleblowers trial in August when they denied they had a romantic relationship and when they denied they fired former deputy chief Gary Brown.
Settlement negotiations had been at a stand still until the mayor crafted a secret side deal, which was concealed from the city council and public, that gave his private attorney possession of the text messages from Beatty's city-issued pager that may implicate them on perjury charges.
Mike Stefani, the attorney for the whistle-blowers, obtained the messages from SkyTel after the trial was over. Under the agreement, he had to destroy all copies in his possession and to not discuss the secret deal.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is expected to wrap up her investigation by the end of this week. Ferguson's relationship with Kilpatrick has been a thorn in the mayor's side.
In the mayor's first term, Ferguson, whose company demolishes homes for the city, was criticized for not cleaning up the sites after demolition.
The mayor had appointed him to the Downtown Development Authority, but in 2005, Ferguson pleaded guilty to assaulting an employee by hitting him with a handgun. A Wayne County jury later awarded the employee $2.6 million.
He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and five years probation, but was criticized when he was allowed out in the weeks leading to Super Bowl XL so he could run his company.
Kilpatrick visited him in jail.
After Kilpatrick was elected, Ferguson became a subcontractor on many city and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD projects.
For example, DFT Security, a business group that included Ferguson, was awarded a $21.3 million contract to perform security upgrades for DWSD, even though the department's own records show DFT's bid was neither the lowest nor the most qualified.
He is also a partner with Robert Porcher and others in the development of the Vinton Building, a 12-story historic structure at Woodward and Congress.
The city sold them the building for $500,000 to develop into retail and residences; the project is still not complete.
Last week, city council decided to postpone a decision asking the mayor to resign.
The mayor will give his state of the city address on Tuesday, and several council members said they will shun the mayor by refusing to sit behind him on stage in Orchestra Hall when he gives his speech.
You can reach David Josar at (313) 222-2073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.