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Testimony about extorting a minority owned company points finger at Ferguson

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Thomas Hardiman of Lakeshore Engineering Thomas Hardiman of Lakeshore Engineering

What a difference a day makes! On Thursday, Bobby Ferguson was a righteous man trying to help minority contractors get city business.
On Friday, he was a shakedown artist taking business from minority contractors.

If there are two numbers contractor Thomas Hardiman will never forget, they are ten and five ... as in ten million dollars and five million dollars.

That's how much Hardiman figures Lakeshore Engineering lost by refusing to give Bobby Ferguson 25-percent of two water department contracts Lakeshore thought it had sewn up. One contract was worth 10 million dollars ... the other worth five million.

Hardiman testified he considered Kwame Kilpatrick a family friend, but after alienating Ferguson, Hardiman said the mayor stopped returning his calls.

Hardiman said things got better after he started cutting Ferguson in on deals, but he still ran into trouble, with Ferguson insisting on work Lakeshore promised to other contractors.  Hardiman said some disputes were resolved only by paying Ferguson even if he didn't do any work. Other times, Ferguson insisted that Hardiman cut him in on deals.

Attorney Mike Rataj said Thursday that Ferguson battled with water department honcho Victor Mercado so minority firms could get more work, but hardiman testified that Ferguson not only took work from minority owned firms, he forced Hardiman to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars -- even though he didn't do any work.

Defense attorneys won't get to grill Hardiman until Monday and when they do, Rataj predicts it will not be pretty.

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