LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — A sitting Lynn Haven commissioner, the current city manager, local investigators, and a host of others could be called next week during a hearing in the Lynn Haven corruption case.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and Margo Anderson, the city’s former mayor, are charged together with conspiracy to commit bribery. Finch is also charged separately with two other counts of bribery and giving a false statement to the FBI. Anderson faces a separate bribery charge.
The defendants have been given at least two days to argue for several motions to dismiss in front of Judge Mark Walker.
The defense contends that prosecutors have failed to properly file their indictments and that they lack the proof necessary to go forward with the trial. Also, defense attorneys are claiming prosecutorial misconduct, vindictiveness, and overreach. They also say that the investigators were illegally influenced by another business owner, Derwin White, who worked to get Finch and Anderson indicted after they notified the authorities about his corruption.
The defendants say they have 15 witnesses who can speak to inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and omissions within the investigation and reports. Those witnesses include FBI Agent Lawrence Borghini, Major Jimmy Stanford of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and Lynn Haven Police Chief Ricky Ramie. That list also includes City Commissioner Judy Tinder and City Manager Vickie Gainer.
Former City Commissioner Antonius Barnes, who is expected to testify that Finch bribed him, is also on the list along with former City Manager Mike White. Mike White previously pleaded guilty in the case. The defense argues that Barnes initially told the FBI that the payments he received from Finch were not a bribe but were instead a business loan.
Ramie, Borghini, and Stanford are listed again and will be asked to testify about the handling of material that was allegedly brought to them by Finch and Anderson. This section of the testimony will center on whether or not Finch and Anderson were the true whistleblowers in the case. Prosecutors have previously argued that the investigation into the city began when Mike White was arrested for domestic violence and that Finch and Anderson only came forward when investigators got too close to their schemes.
Finally, the defense plans to ask about misconduct and vindictiveness in the investigation. This list of 16 people is mostly drawn from the same pool of people but does include George Roberts, the owner of a local construction company.
Other notable names on the list include business owner Allen Byrd and Greg Wilson, a former assistant state attorney. Wilson was arrested by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and convicted in 2018 of possession of contraband in a county detention facility, and a misdemeanor count of perjury. He allegedly worked closely with Derwin White both before and after his arrest.
Byrd is suing Derwin White’s former company, GAC, over the handling of debris removal during Hurricane Michael. Byrd previously sued Anderson, Mike White, and the City of Lynn Haven over the issue.