The Detroit News
City engineer: Concerns about Ferguson ignored
Suit says she was demoted after bringing up controversial contract
Detroit — The city’s former top civil engineer is suing the city, claiming officials ignored her when she raised red flags over a controversial contract that ultimately led to charges against Bobby Ferguson.
Jessy Jacob filed a whistleblower lawsuit on Friday, alleging she suffered retaliation in part for talking to FBI agents in late 2009 about her concerns. The contract has since led to charges alleging that Ferguson rigged bids for $12 million in work on the Garden View Estates public housing project during the administration of his close friend, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Jacob alleges she sent a letter in 2007 to Benyne Goldston, project manager of the Detroit Building Authority, asking that the contract to Ferguson Enterprises be rebid. She claimed the authority never got her approval for cost estimates or engineering drawings and the contract didn’t in- clude a complete accounting of the work to be done.
When FBI agents interviewed her in October 2009, they showed Jacob a copy of her letter to Goldston with the word “disregard” written at the bottom, according to the suit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Jacob alleged the handwriting and initials belonged to Robert Hill Jr., the authority’s superintendent of capital projects. Hill didn’t immediately return a call for comment. City spokesman Dan Lijana said he couldn’t comment on pending lawsuits.
Ferguson was indicted last month on eight federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud and money laundering. The charges were filed in connection with the
contract, largely funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The allegations are among several that Jacob claimed led to her firing in January. Shortly before she was removed by Bing, Jacob alleges, she expressed concerns that city engineers weren’t qualified to manage federally funded projects.
Jacob, a city employee since 1986, has since been bumped back to a civil-service position as head engineer for design and field services for public projects. The suit claims she was forced to work alone in a vacant storage room without voice mail and isn’t “copied on department e-mails and memos.”
she can do to undo what’s been done and nobody’s listening to her,” said her lawyer, Mary Anne Helveston. “It’s a disgrace.”