BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–A now-former Bay County Commissioner, Keith Baker, is behind bars after being arrested Tuesday morning. Baker’s arrest stems from a larger investigation into a corruption scheme out of the City of Lynn Haven following Hurricane Michael. Multiple agencies met Tuesday afternoon to share details on the arrest.
Baker was one of three individuals taken into custody on Tuesday. He was arrested for Workers Compensation Fraud, Bid Tampering, and Official Misconduct.
“I think the only thing I could say is ‘thank goodness it’s about time’,” said Glen Hess, the State Attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit.
Baker is accused of misconduct while he worked for Panama City. He is also facing charges from work he did as a subcontractor for Erosion Control Specialists.
“During the time that Baker was employed by the City of Panama City as Leisure Service Director, he was involved in rigging a bid in favor of ECS,” said Tommy Ford, the Bay County Sheriff.
Sheriff Ford says Baker texted Erosion Control Specialists or ECS during March of 2018, asking them to submit a bid for a demolition job at 1412 Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“Baker relied on ECS to obtain two other bids for the demo job on MLK Boulevard,” said Ford.
A month later, Ford says Baker then encouraged ECS to submit three bids and lower all three bids so that ECS would come in at the lowest at $14,750.
“A bid of this amount could be approved by Baker alone and did not require Baker to present it before the city commission for approval,” said Ford.
Ford says not only did he encourage the false bids, but Baker also went on to work for Erosion Control Specialists after leaving his job with the City of Panama City. He was hired to pick up trash around the City of Lynn Haven.
“Over the course of his new job, Baker was paid approximately $150,000 by ECS for about 5-6 weeks of work,” said Ford.
Following his arrest on Tuesday, Baker submitted his letter of resignation to Bay County to step down from his position as a county commissioner.
Bay County Commissioner, Philip “Griff” Griffitts, released the following statement.
“Today Bay County Commissioner Keith Baker resigned his position as a member of the Bay County Board of County Commissioners, effective immediately. We are disappointed to learn of the charges filed against Keith by the state, and we are certain justice will be forthcoming. Despite this troubling situation, the Bay County Commission and its hundreds of dedicated employees will continue to work hard every day to serve the public with honor and integrity. “
The City of Panama City also released a statement that is listed below.
“There is nothing more important than citizens having trust and confidence in their local government. The City of Panama City is disappointed in the alleged conduct of Keith Baker while he was employed as the City’s Leisure Services Director. The City has fully cooperated with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement throughout this investigation and will continue to do so. City Leadership and the entire Team remain committed to serving our citizens with excellence, transparency, and audit readiness.”
Sheriff Ford and the FBI say this investigation is still active and there’s still a lot of work that has to be done when it comes to serving justice and uncovering all of the details involved with the corruption scheme.