Judge rules Finch can pay Anderson legal fees in Lynn Haven case

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WMBB) — A local business owner can continue to pay the legal fees of the former Mayor of Lynn Haven who is also his alleged co-conspirator in a fraud scheme, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Former Mayor Margo Anderson and James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, are accused of being part of a bribery scheme that funneled public funds to Finch’s business. Five other people, including two other business owners and former City Manager Mike White have pleaded guilty in the case.

Prosecutors cry conflict after Finch pays $344,000 in Anderson legal fees

Anderson, Finch, former City Attorney Adam Albritton and former City Commissioner Antonius Barnes are awaiting trial in the case. In March, Federal prosecutors asked Judge Mark Walker to step in after noting that Finch had paid about $344,000 in legal fees for Anderson so far.

In an interview with News 13 Finch said he was helping out his friend.

“I loaned her some money for her lawyer bills,” he said. “Sure I loaned her some money, they charged her 64 times. She’s a retired school teacher, she has no money.”  

James Finch

However, prosecutors say this arrangement could create a conflict of interest as Anderson’s attorneys may do what is best for Finch instead of what is best for their client. During Tuesday’s hearing Walker asked Anderson a series of questions about the arrangement but noted that it was up to Anderson if she wished to continue to have a co-conspirator pay for her attorney.

Ultimately, Anderson said she was waiving her right to representation without conflict and the case can proceed with Finch footing the bill.

Former Lynn Haven mayor responds to indictment

The case is expected to return to court in August.

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