PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — There is new information tonight on the ongoing federal corruption investigation in Bay County.
The city of Panama City Beach is the latest to receive a subpoena from U.S. Attorney Laurence Keefe.
City officials received the subpoena Thursday, demanding any and all information on bids, quotes, and projects involving GAC contractors and any projects submitted to FEMA regarding Hurricane Michael.
But this subpoena goes into a lot of detail, requesting information and communications between any beach city official or GAC executive including Derwin White and Andrew Rowell as well as GAC project managers, superintendents, estimators and engineers.
It also calls for all of the documentation for the hiring process of former City Manager Mario Gisbert and any contracts or invoices provided by Gisbert acquaintance Jennifer Wolgamott.
The subpoena is requesting a lot of the same types of information as the one issued to Bay District Schools.
Last week, News 13 broke the story that Bay District School officials had received their second federal subpoena.
School officials are still collecting the requested information.
Panama City officials received a request last year asking for information involving local companies erosion control specialists, or ECS, and Greenleaf Lawncare. They voluntarily handed the information over.
Investigators say they found evidence that then Leisure Services Director Keith Baker helped rig contracts for ECS in exchange for pay-offs and trips.
Baker, who became a County Commissioner in November 2018, publicly denied the accusations. Federal investigators handed over the evidence to local prosecutors who indicted Baker on state charges.
He immediately resigned from his commissioner’s seat.
Federal authorities kicked-off this investigation in 2019 saying they believed there was enough evidence to prove widespread fraud, bogus contracts, pay-offs and kick-backs existed in Bay County.
They started in the City of Lynn Haven, where subpoenas resulted in enough evidence to indict 7 people.
Those indictments resulted in the removal of four city officials including Mayor Margo Anderson, City Attorney Adam Albritton, former City Manager Michael White and Leisure Services Director David Horton.
White and Horton, along with ECS Owner David White, ECS employee Shannon Rodriguez and Greenleaf Owner Josh Anderson have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with investigators in exchange for a possible lighter sentence.
Anderson and Albritton were indicted and arrested last week. Both are pleading not guilty for now.
The judge ordered Anderson and Albritton to have no contact with each other and to stay away from Lynn Haven city government.
He also ordered Anderson to surrender her passport. An Oct. 26 trial date is set for both, but that is almost certain to be pushed back.
The latest Lynn Haven indictments accuse city officials of illegal business dealing with 4 companies, two of them locally owned.
News 13 was able to determine one of those companies referred to in the indictments as “company b” is Phoenix Construction. Phoenix is owned by James Finch.
It also accuses “company b’s” owner of colluding with “company a” to fix bids in Lynn Haven.
There is heavy speculation as to the identity of “company a”, but at this point, there is not enough hard evidence to draw a direct conclusion.
The local company featured most prominently in the two latest subpoena’s is GAC. A subpoena delivered to Bay District Schools in late July demanded information on a number of GAC projects including Tommy Oliver Stadium, two large buildings that are currently underway at Bay High School, and Hurricane Michael clean-up involving FEMA funds.
That subpoena also draws in a regional trash company known as BCC.
Another interesting document dated August 13th surfaced this week. Finch sent a letter to Lynn Haven City Manager Vicki Gainer regarding a number of new building projects like a new police station, city hall and the city’s recreational complex off highway 390 and hilltop lane.
Finch makes a number of recommendations that he says will save the city millions of dollars.
but he begins the letter assuring gainer that he is not trying to “get her fired.”
Then he informs Gainer that he is withdrawing his company from consideration for the contract to build the new police department and emergency operations center.
One thing is clear, based on these latest subpoenas and statements from the US Attorney’s office, this
investigation is nowhere near complete and more indictments should be expected.