Editor’s Note: This is the third of three stories we are sharing about the Lynn Haven corruption case. After this story was originally published prosecutors sought a new indictment in the case. This story has been updated to reflect the current charges.
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.
Conspiracy to commit bribery. This count alleges that Finch bribed former commissioner Antonious Barnes with several payments that he claimed were loans but that Barnes never paid back. Barnes has pleaded guilty on a separate charge and is expected to testify against Finch. This count also states that Finch gave Anderson’s husband a motorhome and took her and her husband on expensive vacations. In return, Anderson and Barnes directed city projects back to Finch and Anderson allegedly pressured city employees to give projects to Finch.
Charges Finch with bribery for his alleged payments to Barnes.
Charges Finch with bribery for his alleged gifts to Anderson.
Charges Anderson with accepting bribes from Finch.
Charges Finch with lying to the FBI by allegedly giving investigators a fake bill of sale on the motorhome.