Editor’s Note: This is the third of three stories we are sharing Thursday about the Lynn Haven corruption case. A status conference is scheduled in the case for Friday. That conference could determine how quickly the case will go to trial. A trial date is set for Monday, but that could be pushed back.
LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The Lynn Haven corruption case may be headed for a trial as soon as next week.
Former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and James Finch, the owner of Phoenix construction have pleaded not guilty and say they will defend themselves in court.
The charges against them center on five alleged conspiracies involving city projects. Four of the projects involved Hurricane Michael.
Judge Mark Walker labeled the conspiracies in the case as follows:
17th Street: Finch allegedly bribed Anderson and City Commissioner Antonious Barnes to support his projects with the City of Lynn Haven. In addition, Finch obtained one of those projects, the 17th Street Project, through a bid-rigging agreement with other companies.
ECS: Erosion Control Specialists (ECS) allegedly bribed City Manager Michael White, Anderson, and City Attorney Adam Albritton and received hurricane cleanup and trash pickup contracts in return. ECS also submitted false invoices and, when those invoices were paid, allegedly paid kickbacks to Albritton.
Debris Disposal: Unbeknownst to the City, a company that employed Albritton directed city
contractors to use that company’s property to dispose of debris. After a meeting with Anderson, Finch, White, and the owner of the other company, Anderson directed two other companies to dispose of debris at one of Finch’s properties. Anderson also allegedly vetoed White’s plan to designate city-owned property as a disposal site and secured state government support for a plan to use Finch’s site. At the same time, Anderson allegedly accepted things of value from Finch.
WorldClaim: WorldClaim, a public adjusting firm, approached a contract engineer with the city for help in getting a city contract for hurricane claims. Worldclaim offered the engineer a percentage of whatever they recovered. The engineer, in turn, approached Anderson and White, offering free services from WorldClaim. Anderson and White signed an agreement with WorldClaim using Anderson’s post-hurricane emergency powers. WorldClaim, in turn, allegedly provided them free or reduced services.
Rebuild: After Hurricane Michael, the City had to rebuild many of its facilities. Finch allegedly bribed Anderson for inside information and to exert pressure on city officials to aid Finch in obtaining the rebuild project at a significantly higher cost than the City would pay through its already-planned rebuild project.
These are the charges remaining in the indictment.
Counts 2 – 14
Honest Services Fraud
Margo Anderson and James Finch
Prosecutors say Finch gave Anderson things of value, including an RV and travel and vacations and in exchange she used her position as mayor to obtain city projects for Finch’s business. Those projects include a 17th Street Project, projects paid for with the ½ Cent Surtax, and city business following Hurricane Michael.
Prosecutors say they have specific pieces of evidence that back up each of these 12 counts. Note, unless otherwise noted the checks in these case are from the city of Lynn Haven to Finch’s business Phoenix Construction.
Count 2 $2,5000 Check
Count 3 $2,500 Check
Count 4 $2,272,669.87 Check
Count 5 $72,000 Check
Count 6 Email from City Manager Mike White to engineering firm regarding ½ Cent Sales Tax Project
Count 7 $1,455,330.13 Check
Count 8 $5,000 Check
Count 9 $1,850,170.66 Deposit
Count 10 $75,000 Check from Finch to City Engineer for Motorhome
Count 11 Text from City Manager Mike White to City Engineer Chris Forehand to cancel a permit
Count 12 Email from City Manager Mike White director a company to use Finch’s property for Hurricane debris.
Count 13 Email from City Manager Mike White to State of Florida requesting approval for Finch site for Hurricane Debris
Count 14 Deposit of $20,000 check on Anderson account payable to Finch
Count 15 Theft or Bribery
Anderson is accused of bribery for accepting something of value from Finch that was worth more than $10,000. The motorhome was “intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with a business, transaction, or series of transactions of the City of Lynn Haven.
Count 16 Bribery
Finch is accused of bribing Anderson with the RV.
Count 17 Bribery
Anderson is accused of taking something of value that is more than $5,000 in her position as mayor. In this instance it’s alleged that a company hired by the city did hurricane clean up work done at her home and other homes for free.
Counts 18 and 19 Wire Fraud
Prosecutors state that as part of the illegal clean up of her house Anderson committed wire fraud.
Count 18 is supported by a text message from Mike White about clean up at Anderson’s property.
Count 19 is supported by a deposit of $1,288,716.54 from the city to the company that did the clean up.
Counts 20 – 24 Honest Services Wire Fraud
Anderson is accused of taking things of value from the insurance adjuster firm Worldclaim in exchange for giving them city business.
Count 20 is supported by a deposit from Lynn Haven to Worldclaim for $176,109.72
Count 21 is supported by a check from Anderson’s insurance company for $81,125.96
Count 22 is supported by a deposit from Lynn Haven to Worldclaim for $80,365.71
Count 23 is supported by a deposit from Lynn Haven to Worldclaim for $29,457.25
Count 24 is supported by a deposit from Lynn Haven to Worldclaim for $6,312.32
Count 25 False Statement
Anderson is accused of falsely stating that she was unaware of the role Erosion Control Specialists played in the clean up after Hurricane Michael.
Count 26 False Statement
Finch is accused of falsely stating that he sold a motorhome to Anderson and her husband for $70,000. Prosecutors contend he gave it to Anderson as a bribe. He is also accused of presenting a false bill of sale showing that half of the money was paid by the Andersons and that half was due with 6% interest.