PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A newly released federal document makes new allegations about corruption in Bay County following Hurricane Michael.
The one-year-old application for a search warrant was filed by FBI Agent Lawrence Borghini and was part of an ongoing investigation into corruption in Bay County following Hurricane Michael.
Federal prosecutors previously indicted former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson, James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and others in the case. However, federal authorities were also investigating Derwin White, the co-owner of GAC. White died in August of 2021. That same month Borghini filed this document requesting a federal search of GAC’s offices.
GAC, which has since been sold, was also owned by former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense.
The document states that GAC crews were sent to schools because GAC had a contract with Bay District to do hurricane clean-up. However, while GAC crew members were there they were not actually doing any work, Borghini said. Instead, subcontractors did the work and the presence of GAC workers “was necessary to give the appearance that GAC was doing work at the schools.”
“The GAC crews did this for about a month,” he added.
Borghini added the crews got their instructions from either White or Bense. He then writes that GAC crews were supposed to be working for Bay District but were instead working on White’s home, White’s farm, Bense’s home, and the home of former Lynn Haven City Attorney Adam Albritton.
Borghini writes that GAC crews did work at former State Senator George Gainer’s home and the home of Bay District Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Both men denied that allegation Thursday.
“That is just a bald-faced lie,” Gainer said Thursday night. “I didn’t ask them to and they didn’t do it. … When your integrity gets questioned this frivolously it really makes you wonder what in the world are they thinking?”
Husfelt said he and his neighbor hired a company out of Louisiana to do work at his house. He added that no one from GAC or any other local company did work at his house.
“GAC nor any local company that I know of, the people that did my yard cleaning and trees – I had two trees of my house fall on my neighbor’s house and my neighbor can tell you that. Because the people that my neighbor used were the same people that did mine,” Husfelt said. “We all got together and used these same guys from Louisiana that had camped out down the street.”
Bense did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday. None of these men have been charged in this case.
Doug Lee, the executive director of operations for Bay District Schools, allegedly texted White and asked him to get several trees off his house. Follow-up texts suggest that White sent three people to help. Lee has not been charged in the case.
Borghini also points out several connections White had connections to former State Senator George Gainer. He wrote that in 2016 White sent a GAC superintendent to remodel a condo Gainer owned. The superintendent was instructed to charge his time and all supplies needed to “other active GAC jobs.”
Also in 2016, Gainer and White formed a limited liability company together.
Gainer said Thursday that GAC did some molding work at the condo that he paid for. He also said the company, Yellowjackets LLC. was used by the two men to purchase a piece of property that would be used by Vernon Elementary School.
“I knew the rules and he did too,” Gainer said. “He didn’t expect me to do anything.”
Joel Schubert, the current assistant county manager in Bay County, was also named in the search warrant. Schubert allegedly asked White for the names of local contractors who do tree work so he could hire them to remove trees that were blocking his driveway after Hurricane Michael, Borghini wrote.
Instead of giving Schubert names White sent GAC employees to the house and had the work done, Borghini wrote. He added that Schubert requested a bill for the work and both in person and in writing but never got one from White.
Finally, on April 4, Schubert purchased a $3,000 cashier’s check payable to GAC and delivered with a letter saying that the money was for services at his house and asked to be advised if any more money was required.
Borghini wrote that after Hurricane Michael, White tried to pressure Crowder Gulf to get a cut of its clean-up operations. Borghini states that White was trying to get a percentage while actually doing no work because of his “connections.” Crowder Gulf already had contracts in hand and turned him down, Borghini wrote.
He added that Crowder Gulf’s Director of Operations said that in his career, which included clean-up operations after Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and other major disasters that he had never seen anything like Bay County.
“Bay County was more corrupt than any of those places,” Borghini wrote.
White was able to strike a deal with Ashbritt, another debris removal company, Borghini wrote. He added that White was able to get millions of dollars in fees from operations that were not properly bid out.