PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson, who often stated publicly that she ran the city, now claims she wasn’t really running the city and hopes to place the blame for a criminal conspiracy on Lynn Haven’s former city manager Michael White.
That comes from the latest court filings in U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe’s fraud and corruption case in Lynn Haven.
Anderson and City Attorney Adam Albritton are asking a judge to dismiss some of the federal charges, according to motions filed in their cases. Albritton faces 64 counts of fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud while Anderson faces 63 similar charges.
Federal prosecutors said the pair were part of a kickback scheme involving local contractors and city projects that took place both before and after Hurricane Michael. Five other individuals, including former City Manager Mike White, the city’s former leisure services director David Horton and two local business owners have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Albritton’s attorneys argue that the charges are duplicitous and 25 of them should be dismissed because they violate the double jeopardy clause.
Anderson’s attorneys argue that the multi-count indictment should not be read to the jury.
“The Indictment commingles multiple alleged schemes, creates unnecessary complexity and confusion, and, more generally, reads as an improper rhetorical tool, in effect a written closing argument, not a plain, concise, and definite statement of essential facts,” the motion states. “By way of example, not a single “wire communication” identified in the Indictment was made by or to Anderson …”
Anderson’s attorneys also argue that federal prosecutors do not understand her role as mayor. They wrote that the mayor is just a member of the city commission and is not the direct supervisor of the city manager.
“The Indictment is replete with alleged misconduct by the City Manager and infers that Anderson, as his supervisor, inevitably knew and participated in fraudulent schemes with the City Manager,” the motion states. “The Charter of the City of Lynn Haven (“Charter”) demonstrates the contrary as a matter of law that the Mayor is not the head of the municipal government and is not responsible for supervising the City Manager.”
Anderson’s attorneys claim that it is the city manager who was behind the illegal schemes and that Anderson did not know what was going on in her city.
“The truth is that in no instance did Anderson have knowledge and concur in the fraudulent acts of the City Manager and that most of Anderson’s questioned actions were unanimously approved by the entire City Commission,” the motion states. “The use of phrases such as ‘with knowledge of,’ ‘with concurrence of,’ and ‘at the direction of’ are simply literary devices to create an illusion of evil conduct by Anderson. This is prejudicial to Anderson and should be stricken.”
In their response, federal prosecutors noted that the indictment does indeed include specifics about the schemes Anderson and Albritton were involved in. One section notes that the taxpayers were billed for work done at their respective properties. Another notes that Anderson received “travel in a private airplane, lodging aboard a private yacht, meals and entertainment, and the receipt of a $106,000 motorhome from Company B.”
Company B is believed to be Phoenix Construction and its owner is named a co-conspirator in a motion filed by prosecutors.
“Witnesses will testify at trial that Defendant Anderson ran the City and that she made statements to various persons that she, and not M. White, ran the City,” prosecutors wrote. “She directed the City Manager to fire several Lynn Haven employees, and threatened to have the City Manager fired by the City Commission if he did not do as she directed.”
Judge Mark Walker has not yet ruled on the motions.