Follow the Money

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Tuesday Bay County commissioners voted to step aside and allow Panama City to annex the Goose Bayou area near North Shore. Wednesday some are asking if political contributions played a role in the commission's decision.

It's the three to two decision about pursuing a legal battle with Panama City over the Goose Bayou annexation that raises the question as to whether donations affect politics. The developer for the project, Fred Webb, and his wife Lynn have made several contributions to candidates.

Commissioners Mike Nelson and Mike Thomas each received $1,000 from the Webb’s and George Gainer got $600. All three voted to halt plans to stop Panama City from annexing.

Jerry Girvin, who also received a $500 contribution, went the other direction. In fact, it was Girvin who led the commission to a vote asking the county attorney to fight the annexation vigorously. Despite appearances, the commissioners and Webb deny any impropriety.

Commissioner Nelson says you have to have money to run a campaign.

"When you look at how many contributions I got, which was several hundred, and then you're talking about two people that gave me a contribution? That never even entered my mind, quite frankly."

Chairman Gainer says those who contribute to his campaign do so because they know he would be fair and honest. He also says this is not about supporting Webb because he and the county have opposed the annexation for months, but it now comes down to going after a city.

"We have no right to be suing people, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of the county's money, costing the city the same without at least sitting down and attempting to work out any problems we have."

Webb told Newschannel Seven he has never expected favors because of his active involvement in politics. In fact, he says several former politicians repeatedly shot down his plans despite any contributions made to their campaigns.

We also spoke to Commissioner Mike Thomas. He says all he has to do is be honest, then if he disagrees with anyone over an issue there is no problem.