LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The construction magnate connected to the Lynn Haven corruption investigation is headed to a hearing over alleged communication with witnesses in the case.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, is accused of bribing public officials in order to get lucrative contracts for his business.
Prosecutors have charged nine people in the case. Five of them have already pleaded guilty while Finch, former Mayor Margo Anderson, former City Attorney Adam Albritton, and former City Commissioner Antonius Barnes are awaiting trial.
All five of them are in the pretrial release program and are allowed to go about their business and live their lives under certain conditions. However, they are also ordered to avoid all contact directly or indirectly with any witness or victim in the case.
United States Probation Officer Michael Dwyer is taking issue with an email Finch sent to the Lynn Haven City Manager and the City Commission on April 12. Finch was upset that City Commissioner Dan Russell suggested that instead of continuing to pay back a loan it received from Phoenix Construction the city should instead escrow the payments and wait until the trial is concluded.
The city owes Finch $4.7 million on the 17th Street project.
Russell said the city would have a hard time getting the money back if Finch was convicted.
In his email, Finch warned the commissioners that escrowing the money did not constitute payment and if the payments stopped all of the money would be due immediately. If it wasn’t paid then an 18 percent in interest would be charged until the payments resumed.
“I would remind the Commission that Dan Russell has voted yes three times on this issue, and not once to fill the Mayor’s seat or his own Commission seat,” he added. “Also, I understand that the City is preparing for the 4th of July events. As for the $20,000 I’ve donated in the past to help those events, you can count me out.”
Finch got what he wanted and the commissioners said the city will continue to make the loan payments. However, Finch is now facing a hearing before a federal judge over the email. While it is unlikely; if the judge finds that he violated the terms of his release he could be held in jail until the trial.
The hearing is scheduled for Monday. The trial is set for August.