Update 9:47 p.m.: The transcript from the trial has been attached to this story.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WMBB) — After nearly three years of indictments, motions, and 8 guilty pleas the trial of one of the defendants in the Lynn Haven corruption case began Monday.

James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, is accused of conspiracy and bribery with payments he made to Antonius Barnes, a former Lynn Haven City Commissioner.

Federal prosecutor Justin Keen promised jurors that the case is a simple one and urged them to remain focused.

Finch gave Barnes 7 checks over two years that amounted to $45,000. In return, Finch was buying certainty that his company’s projects would be approved by the city commission.

Keen said Finch wrote the word ‘loan’ on the memo line on some of the checks.

“We expect the evidence will show that it’s not a loan, it’s a bribe,” Keen said.

He added that even though Barnes owes Finch $45,000 he has “not had to pay a single dollar back. Nor has Mr. Finch tried to collect on it.”

Keen noted that Barnes, as a sitting city commissioner, was required to disclose who he owed money to on state ethics forms and that he omitted the money he owed Finch.

However, Guy Lewis, Finch’s attorney, argued that the case was about a loan to an old friend and about a witness who was not telling the truth.

“It was legitimate and above board,” Lewis said.

He added that both men told the FBI about the money during the agency’s investigation into Lynn Haven.

“Nothing was secret,” Lewis said.

He added that the money was to help Barnes restart an insurance business and that Finch, who is a successful and self-made business owner, was often generous to others and to the city of Lynn Haven itself.

During his opening, Lewis suggested that Finch had been caught up in a case that really did not involve him. Former City Manager Mike White has already pleaded guilty in a multi-million dollar scheme as part of the corruption case, Lewis said.

And after he pleaded guilty, White agreed to talk to the government in hopes of getting a lesser sentence, Lewis said. As part of those discussions, White told the FBI that he discussed an upcoming commission vote with Finch and that he was concerned about how the vote would shake out.

White states that Finch told him not to worry because “Antonius Barnes will dance if I tell him to…he probably wants more money.”

Lewis told the jury that this single piece of evidence, the crux of the prosecution’s case, was coming from a man who was not trustworthy.

“You’ll see the real question here is whether you believe Michael White,” Lewis said. He added that White admitted to investigators that he was an alcoholic, and bipolar and that he was arrested for domestic battery.

However, jurors did not hear Mike White’s testimony Monday. Instead, they heard from Joel Schubert, the man who was the city manager of Lynn Haven prior to White.

Schubert testified that he had several dealings with Finch. Most of those involved city business but he also testified that he purchased a home from Finch for what Schubert described as “fair market value.”

“If for nothing else other than optics, I wanted to make sure I paid market value for that house,” Schubert said.

He added that Finch offered to finance the purchase but that Schubert turned the offer down. He concluded that a city official should not owe money to someone who did business with the city.

Schubert testified at length about the city’s project to repair a ditch on 17th street, the purchase of city property by Finch, and an encounter he had with Finch and then Mayor Margo Anderson after he announced he was resigning in order to take a job with the Bay County government.

Schubert said that the Lynn Haven commission was under pressure from the community to fix the ditch from the community after a woman died in a traffic accident. He added that one plan to fix the project would have involved getting a grant but that would have taken a year.

Meanwhile, the city was doing the project in smaller sections.

This “was putting a band-aid on an open wound,” Schubert said.

Soon, a plan, offered by Finch, took shape. Finch would take on the whole project, finance it at an interest rate that was below what the city could get from a bank, and then let the city pay him back.

Schubert said the plan was in the best interest of the city and that he signed off on it. However, he also noted that Anderson and Barnes were pushing for the Finch project as well.

When questioned by Lewis, Schubert testified that Finch never bribed him or offered to bribe him. He also said that Finch had been named “Citizen of the Year” multiple times by city leaders.

However, after he announced his resignation from the city he was called to a meeting with Finch and Anderson. Together they asked Schubert to stay in Lynn Haven.

“They both suggested I should make more,” Schubert said. He turned down the offer and said he did not know what to make of it, given that he and Anderson had a contentious relationship.

“There was a lot of static between the mayor and myself,” Schubert said. He noted that he had been given a six percent raise by the commission 14 months before his resignation and that Anderson had been the only person to vote against the raise.

After acknowledging that Finch did not work for the city and could not give him a raise Schubert was asked to speak to Finch’s motives for trying to get him to stay.

“Maybe he thought I was doing a good job,” Schubert said. Then he added that it was possible Finch thought he would be “beholden,” to him.

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday morning.

You can read the entire transcript below: