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Panama City Beach Government Served Subpoena In Federal Investigation Into Local Public Corruption

Panama City Beach Police Department
Panama City Beach Government
The Panama City Beach Police Station was built by GAC Contractors in 2016.

Panama City Beach is the latest local government in Bay County to receive a federal grand jury subpoena for documents to aid an ongoing investigation into public corruption.

City officials have two weeks to submit a long list of records to federal investigators. Those include documents related to contracts awarded to GAC Contractors dating back to Jan. 2016. GAC is a local company that's been awarded numerous multi-million dollar contracts for public projects in the county over the last several years.

In Panama City Beach, contracts awarded during that time have included repaving roadways, along with building a new police station, city hall and administration building.

Most of the corruption charges already brought against public officials have been related to the misuse of federal Hurricane Michael recovery dollars. But federal, state and local law enforcement officials have been hinting that suspected public corruption in Bay County is far more widespread.

“There has been an undercurrent of corruption in Bay County for a long time,” said Glenn Hess, state attorney for the 14th judicial circuit, at a press conference in June. “The winds of Hurricane Michael laid it out so it could be seen.”

All city officials - including those who were serving at any time since Jan. 2016 - must turn over text messages, emails and calls with GAC executives.

In Panama City Beach, federal investigators are also seeking the following records:

  • all bids, quotes, proposals that GAC submitted for projects, along with any bids and quotes from competitors for those same projects
  • purchase orders to GAC and invoices from the company
  • "internal memos, emails and notes" from city meetings where business with GAC was discussed
  • inspection reports, permits and certificates of occupancy issued to GAC for both public and private projects within the city
  • any invoices from the company's CEO Derwin White and other businesses he owns
  • GAC subcontractor invoices that exceed $1,000

Bay District Schools was served a similar subpoena in July. It also seeks records related to GAC contracts with the school district dating back to Jan. 2016.

The district has awarded several contracts to the company in that time, including the Tommy Oliver Stadium rebuild, the Bay High School STEM Building and most recently the rebuild of the Bay High Fine Arts Center.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.