February 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Mallett verifies link to Cobo

Ex-justice says work with contractor charged in FBI probe was legitimate.

Mallett )

DETROIT -- Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Conrad Mallett Jr. had a share of electrical and janitorial contracts at Detroit's Cobo Center that have been linked to a City Hall bribery scandal, Mallett confirmed Tuesday.

Mallett said his company, ABK Development LLC, received a monthly retainer from Karl Kado, the former Cobo contractor who allegedly paid bribes to two successive Cobo directors.

Mallett said his consulting contract with Kado's Metro Services Organization began in late 2004 or early 2005, after Mallett stepped down as Detroit's chief operating officer under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in April 2002. Mallett's consulting contract continued until Kado lost the Cobo contracts in 2006, he said.

Mallett, 55, confirmed his business relationship with Kado after The Detroit News reported Tuesday that Mallett and his company were named in a November 2005 federal grand jury subpoena seeking city contract records. The subpoena, obtained by The News on Monday, was served on the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

Mallett said he was surprised to learn of the bribery allegations against Kado and said his dealings with Kado were all above board.

Mallett said he's never been contacted by the FBI or another investigative agency and surmises that, since three years have passed since the subpoena was served on the city agency, federal agents have determined he's done nothing wrong.

"That's certainly my take on it," said Mallett, who is president of the Detroit Medical Center's Sinai-Grace Hospital.

Federal authorities have refused to comment on the investigation.

Kado was charged in August with filing false tax returns but has yet to appear in U.S. District Court in Detroit for an expected guilty plea. Lou Pavledes, who was Cobo director from 1996 until April 2004, admitted taking $100,000 in cash bribes from Kado when Pavledes pleaded guilty to a financial reporting felony in August. He awaits sentencing.

Former Cobo director Glenn Blanton, who held the post from November 2004 until February 2007, admitted taking $15,000 in bribes from Kado when Blanton pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in October. Blanton also awaits sentencing.

The Cobo case is one aspect of a long-running and wide-ranging City Hall corruption investigation. Former Mayor Kilpatrick and his father, business consultant Bernard N. Kilpatrick, are among those under investigation.

Mallett would not disclose the amount of the monthly retainer he received from Kado, but said the amount was in line with industry standards for such consulting deals. He said he advised Kado on possible property acquisitions and other business matters.

Kado billed more than $12 million a year for electrical services at the home of the North American International Auto Show, The News reported in 2005. The janitorial contract was worth at least another $2.6 million a year.

Mallett said he got to know Kado and his family when Mallett lived in Detroit's downtown Millender Center, where Kado ran a store.

"Karl was -- is -- a very, very interesting businessman," Mallett said. "I was advising him as a friend on business matters as it related to the company."

Mallett was active in Kilpatrick's first mayoral campaign and briefly served in his administration.

In August, Wayne Circuit Judge Thomas E. Jackson complained of "inappropriate" attempted contacts from Mallett and former mayoral general counsel Sharon McPhail while Jackson was dealing with bond issues related to perjury and obstruction of justice charges against the former mayor. Another judge later sentenced Kilpatrick to 120 days in jail.

Mallett, a one-time aide to former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1990 and elected chief justice in 1997. He stepped down in 1998 to practice law in Detroit. After leaving his post in the Kilpatrick administration, Mallett briefly served as president and general counsel of Hawkins Food Group LLC before moving to the DMC.

Pizza mogul La-Van Hawkins, who headed the Hawkins Food Group, is serving a federal prison sentence for fraud and perjury in connection with a public corruption scandal in Philadelphia.

You can reach Paul Egan at (313) 222-2069 or pegan@detnews.com">pegan@detnews.com.