LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The owner of Lynn Haven’s largest construction company wants to go back to doing business — personally — with the city.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, is still fighting two charges that he bribed former Lynn Haven City Commissioner Antonius Barnes after a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision in his first trial earlier this month.
A retrial is now set for July 17. But in the meantime, Finch has asked Federal Judge Mark Walker to allow him to deal directly with city officials again. Under the terms of his release before the first trial, Finch was ordered to stay away from the city and allow his employees to communicate with city staff.
But that’s not good enough, Finch said in a recent motion.
“Despite the government’s allegations, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that Mr. Finch operates Phoenix, a legitimate, highly successful construction business, in a lawful manner,” wrote Guy Lewis, Finch’s attorney. “When he does perform work for the City of Lynn Haven, which is a small fraction of his overall construction business, it is with the approval of the City Commissioners, Officials, Staff, and with extensive and transparent City interaction and oversight. The unrebutted evidence indicated that this has been his method of operation for decades.”
Finch has other business with the city apart from Phoenix, Lewis added.
“Additionally, Mr. Finch is an active partner on a large-scale residential development project with plans of annexing an additional 90 units within Lynn Haven city limits,” Lewis wrote. “Mr. Finch needs to interact with the water, sewer, and other utility departments about tapping into and upgrading existing infrastructure. As projected, the project will yield the City of Lynn Haven several hundreds of thousands of dollars in permits and impact fees alone.”
Lewis added that Finch’s “projects, his company, his employees, and the City of Lynn Haven may suffer if he cannot discuss ongoing and future business.”
However, Finch does not want to communicate with all city employees.
“Mr. Finch agrees to avoid interacting with City Manager Vicki Gainer,” Lewis wrote.
Finch also asked the court to lift the order that prevents him from communicating with former Mayor Margo Anderson. Anderson plead guilty to lying to the FBI in the corruption case and at her change of plea hearing was told by Walker that she could no longer speak with the businessman.
Should the judge allow Finch and Anderson to speak again Finch, “will agree to keep his communications related to matters unrelated to the specifics of this case,” Lewis wrote.
A response to this motion from prosecutors is expected on Friday.