Federal authorities charged five people Tuesday morning including the former city manager of Lynn Haven, a Lynn Haven employee and the owners of two local businesses who performed services for the city following Hurricane Michael.
All of the individuals named in the indictment are charged with several counts of fraud and money laundering for a total of $5 million.
They are: Mike White, the former city manager of Lynn Haven, Lynn Haven Community Services Director David Horton, Greenleaf Lawncare Owner Josh Anderson, Erosion Control Specialist Owner David Mitchelle White and Erosion Control Specialist employee Shannon Rodriguez.
U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe’s Public Trust Unit is expected to hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Panama City.
News 13 will carry the news conference live on-air and on Facebook.
Current City Manager Vickie Gainer emailed a statement about the arrest Tuesday.
“The city continues to gather information at the same pace this investigation is taking place,” Gainer wrote. “Mr. David Horton, has been charged with allegations of criminal activity. Mr. Horton has been suspended without pay until the city has had the opportunity to review the allegations. The vendor in questioned, Greenleaf Lawn of Care performed lawn care services for the city. In light of the allegations with Greenleaf Lawn Care, the city will be reviewing their contract for possible termination.”
The indictment states that Anderson submitted false invoices to the city for payment.
Mike White, approved Erosion Control Specialists invoices and then directed city employees to immediately pay ECS for those invoices, even though other contracted debris removal companies had to wait for payment of invoices submitted for Hurricane Michael disaster relief and debris removal.
Erosion Control Specialists, which worked for Lynn Haven after Hurricane Michael was not licensed in Florida to do contracting, electrical or plumbing work and held no business license in the state.
“In the first month of its contract (November 2017) Joshua Daniel Anderson and Greenleaf submitted a request for payment to Lynn Haven under the contract for $277,372.80.”
Horton and Mike White approved invoices submitted by Erosion Control Specialists for work “allegedly” performed by ECS for Hurricane Michael clean up. Horton also approved ECS timesheets and “falsely verified” the attendance of ECS employees at various claimed work locations, the indictment states. It adds that Horton accepted payment for some of his travel, lodging, meals, entertainment, and food from David Mitchelle White on a number of occasions.
The indictment adds that Horton also had David White and ECS provide debris removal and repair to his home, the indictment said. That work was paid for by the City of Lynn Haven, prosecutors wrote. Horton then requested and obtained an invoice for the services provided at his home which he then submitted to his insurance company for payment, they added.
Horton may not be the only person connected to Lynn Haven to do this. The indictment states that ECS submitted to Lynn Haven for payment of services that were not authorized under the emergency contract and were for personal residences of some Lynn Haven officials.
The indictment states that along with Horton, work was also done at Mike White’s home, and his farm outside the city limits. The private home of Mayor Margo Anderson and her mother. The private gated community of a city commissioner (the city commissioner is not named in the indictment). However, the indictment names the community as Osceola Point.
ECS also did clean up work at the private home of Lynn Haven City Attorney Adam Albritton and others as directed by Albritton, the indictment states.
“I have been asked not to comment on the events of today as it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Albritton wrote in a statement to News 13. “For now, all I can say is that to best of my abilities, at all times I have honestly and faithfully fulfilled my responsibilities as the City Attorney for Lynn Haven.”
Shannon Rodriguez, David White’s sister, supervised a crew of ECS workers and maintained timesheets for the workers that were then submitted to Lynn Haven for payment, according to the indictment.
“After the initial declaration of an emergency by Lynn Haven had been revoked and expired, Michael Edward White and David Wayne Horton sought to locate additional Lynn Haven projects that could provide money to David Mitchelle White and ECS,” the indictment states
They accomplished this task by hiring ECS to conduct trash pick-up at $300 per hour per crew.
“This action was implemented despite the ability of Lynn Haven waste trucks to pick-up large amounts of household trash and deposit large amounts of trash at the dump at no increased cost to Lynn Haven,” the indictment states. They also had ECS employees wrap Christmas gifts, prepare locations for a Halloween party and other miscellaneous acts that were not authorized under any agreement with Lynn Haven.
ECS billed $35 per hour for employees and $90 per hour for supervisors for these “unauthorized activities.”
“In Late December of 2018, David Mitchelle White paid for a week-long trip to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area for David Wayne Horton and his family, Joshua Daniel Anderson and his family, Shannon Delores Rodriguez and her family, a Bay County commissioner and his family,” the indictment states. The trip cost David White more than $25,000 for lodging meals, entertainment and rental vehicles for the two public officials.
In February of this year Michael White sold his Bay County farm and a Trans Am to David White for $300,000.
“The source of the money paid to M. White was the monies paid by Lynn Haven
Bay County Commissioner Keith Baker released a statement following the press conference.
Erosion Control Specialists is not a past or present vendor of Bay County. In December of 2018, as a newly elected county commissioner, I was unaware of the requirements regarding reporting of gifts by elected officials. I did accept a trip to Tennessee and will take immediate steps to rectify my failure to report that gift with the state Ethics Commission.”Keith Baker